MAHANOY CITY -- A man who has been in trouble with the law over drug charges finds himself again locked up, this time on allegations that he set fire to a home and beat a woman in Schuylkill County.
Firefighters have just put out what police call a deliberately set blaze in Mahanoy City. Investigators say Joseph Yeich, 28, is responsible. Police say he also beat Elrena Gibson.
Court papers say Yeich claimed Gibson tried to kill him and the devil made him do it. Gibson is hospitalized.
“I went out back and saw the girl beaten. She looked like a hamburger, she was beaten that bad,” said neighbor Brendon Hasara. “I knew the girl, i grew up with her, she was unconscious, she was bleeding that bad.”
Court papers say Yeich has unrelated assault and drug charges pending in Schuylkill County court.
“I was saying the person who was hitting the lady, there was going to be a problem and he was going to hurt somebody,” said neighbor Matt Walters. “He was whacked out all the time. You could tell he was messed up on drugs all the time.”
Ken Soult and his family were among 25 neighbors who evacuated their row homes because of the arson at Gibson's house, a place neighbors call a problem property.
“In the last two months, I have had the cops here five times last week, beatings two weeks ago, five cop cars here from various municipalities concerning this house, so yeah it's been a problem.”
“I grew up here my whole life and the town is not safe anymore,” Hasara added.
Yeich faces a hearing later this month.