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TMCNet:  Nazareth woman ordered to face trial in arsons

[November 19, 2012]

Nazareth woman ordered to face trial in arsons

Nov 19, 2012 (The Morning Call (Allentown - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- When investigators first began probing the cause of a March 13 blaze that destroyed her Nazareth home, Karla Dewey told police she wasn't sure how the fire began. But after she took a polygraph test May 1, her story changed, police say.
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State police Cpl. Robert Whitbeck testified Monday he confronted Dewey after the lie-detector test and told her that he believed she was involved in the fire that caused an estimated $80,000 in damages.

Dewey, who sat with her hands and feet shackled in a Nazareth courtroom, began to cry as Whitbeck testified.

Whitbeck testified Dewey then told him a new story after the polygraph, saying she had been "stressed out" and, after putting her 3-year-old son upstairs to play in his room at their home on N. Green Street, she lit a cigar to "try and relax." She also told him some of the cigar ashes accidentally fell onto the arm of the couch and a few minutes later, the smoke alarm sounded as Dewey's living room erupted in flames. She said she dashed out the door with her son.

Police contend she set the fire and after Monday's hearing, District Judge John Capobianco ruled there was enough evidence against Dewey on arson charges for the blaze, and a second small fire she is charged with setting at St. John's United Church of Christ in 2009.

Dewey also told police she was worried her husband, Richard Dewey, a member of the Upper Nazareth Township Fire Department, would be "upset over this," Whitbeck testified. After the fire, the community rallied and raised money for the family.

Dewey, 30, remains in Northampton County Prison under $65,000 bail for both blazes.

At Monday's hearing, there was also testimony from David DeRemer, a senior pastor at St. John's UCC, 183 S. Broad St. He said that although church officials did not report the fire to authorities, he had saved a copy of video surveillance that he said showed Dewey in the office at the time of the fire.

DeRemer said he was contacted by authorities this year as they investigated the cause of the March 13 blaze.

DeRemer said on Oct. 14, 2009, Dewey was at the church for choir practice. He said the following day, a church official she had told him she smelled burning and had found a charred piece of poster board inside a vacant office.

The fire burned out before causing extensive damage and DeRemer said church officials did not immediately report the blaze.

DeRemer said he reviewed surveillance video from the church hallway and it showed Dewey entering the vacant office around the time he believed the blaze began.

He said when he asked Dewey about the fire, she denied knowing anything and said she had seen two children in the office.

DeRemer said after extensively reviewing the video surveillance, it showed no children in the hallway and there were no children activities scheduled that night at the church.

"The video indicated to me that [Dewey] was the only person in the area during the time someone reported smelling smoke or something burning," DeRemer said.

He testified that while he doesn't know who started the blaze, he told church officials to "be aware" of Dewey's activities in the building.

pamela.lehman@mcall.com 610-820-6790 ___ (c)2012 The Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.) Visit The Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.) at www.mcall.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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