MAHANOY CITY – A number of people who were forced out of their homes after an arson Wednesday night still can’t go to their homes. Officials say they have a man in custody who they believe is responsible for the fire.
The scene was East Pine Street in Mahanoy City after a fire started just before 9 p.m.
The fire forced 11-year-old Aaron Bickowski and his family out of their home just a few doors down.
“I saw smoke. I saw a lot of smoke, fire, and a lady came out of the house with a bloody face,” said Aaron Bickowski, of Mahanoy City.
Joseph Yeich is now charged with arson, aggravated assault, and several other charges.
Police say when they arrived at the scene, they found a woman, Erlena Gibson, sitting on the sidewalk with a massive head injury, her clothes covered in bleach. She told police Joseph Yeich was responsible for her injuries.
According to police, Yeich told witnesses the victim tried to kill him, so he beat her and set the house on fire. About 20 to 30 neighbors were forced to evacuate.
Investigators say Yeich told witnesses the devil made him do it.
Police found Yeich later in a home on Market Street. The victim was taken to Lehigh Valley Hospital near Allentown for treatment.
Neighbors say there have been issues with the people living in this building for quite some time, and even though they’re sad to this happen, the silver lining is that these people won’t be able to come back.
“The cops have been called many times down here for them, yelling. The other night, they were like throwing each other off the wall and beating each other,” said Bickowski.
Mahanoy City Police confirm they’ve been to the house a few times for disturbances and code violations. But now, Aaron Bickwoski says he just wants to go home because all he can think is.
“That my house is going to burn down and I’m going to have no place to stay for Christmas,” said Bickowski.
Joseph Yeich is locked up in the Schuylkill County Prison today on $50,000 bail.
Some of the neighbors forced from their homes are firefighters in Mahanoy City. At this time, we don’t know when some of those neighbors who live on East Pine Street will be allowed back into their homes.