Hallstead Man Charged with Arson

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People living in a Susquehanna County apartment building are staying with friends after police said an arsonist tried to burn down their home.

The victims said they're angry, but also have a touch of sympathy for the man charged.

"I'm glad everyone got out," said tenant Debra White as she stared at the charred apartment building shortly after volunteers put out a fire Saturday afternoon.

White and a handful of tenants at the Hallstead apartment building said the fire could have been deadly.

ElIen Shankman first noticed the flames coming from arson suspect Frederick Bentler`s unit.

Shankman said he woke up a sleeping man in one room, then went to Bentler`s unit and tried to get him out.

"I kept pounding on his door, tried knocking the door in, couldn't do it," said Shankman, "I couldn't get the door open, realized he wasn't going to come to the door."

Police found Bentler near the burning apartment and took him into custody and charged him with arson and related crimes.

People at the Hallstead apartment building said they called police several times because of what they call Bentler's "erratic behavior."

"Due to all the damage that he was causing, breaking windows, breaking the porch, screaming and hollering, threatening everybody," said White.

"I'm a little mad because the person that started this fire, we knew he was trouble," added tenant Elizabeth Boreale, "And we tried getting him help."

After the mid-afternoon fire, Bentler's former neighbors hope he gets the help they said he needs behind bars.

"I feel badly for the man who was here (Bentler)," said White.  "This could have been prevented."

"I'm just glad that nobody got hurt," added Shankman. "And I'm glad that there were no casualties in the whole thing."

A magistrate set Frederick Bentler's bail at $150,000 and he remains locked up in the Susquehanna County Jail.