Palmerton man gets prison time for arson at estranged wife’s house — (The Morning Call)

SSRI Ed note: Man upset over pending divorce changes antidepressants, goes on rampage burning down house and killing pets.

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The Morning Call

By Chris Parker Of The Morning Call

He says he was ‘out of control.’ She says she still lives in fear.

Thomas G. Heiney Jr. arrived at his estranged wife’s Lower Towamensing Township home on June 28, 2005, armed and upset over an impending divorce.

He broke in, let his favorite dog out, scattered papers around and set the house afire in a blaze that destroyed the dwelling and killed two dogs and three cats in cages inside.

Heiney, who earlier admitted in court that he set the fire, told a Carbon County Court judge at his sentencing Monday that he was depressed and felt ”out of control” when he set the fire.

President Judge Roger Nanovic, noting that Heiney had violated a protection-from-abuse order at the time and had taken the gun with him, sentenced him to one to two years minus one day in prison on a charge of arson, followed by three years of probation.

He also sentenced Heiney to one to 24 months in jail for the five counts of cruelty to animals, to be served at the same time as the arson sentence.

Heiney, 38, last of 840 Lafayette Ave., Palmerton, also must reimburse insurance companies $176,866 for the home and $3,708 for Beverly Heiney’s car, which he damaged as it sat in the driveway of the home.

Beverly Heiney, 53, had gone to dinner with her daughter when her estranged husband burned their home.

Nanovic ordered Heiney to stay away from his wife, who he said has good reason to fear Heiney.

”She believes you intended to kill her,” the judge said.

Heiney said he had the gun because he intended to kill himself.

Nanovic gave Heiney credit for 214 days he’s been jailed on the charges.

Beverly Heiney said the year in jail is nothing compared to what she feels is her own life sentence.

”I’m living under lockdown,” she said outside the courtroom Monday.

During the hearing, Beverly Heiney said she lives in constant fear. ”I have to worry when I hear a car pull up,” she told Nanovic.

She said she won’t let her five grandchildren visit her home.

”You always have to be afraid,” she said.

Public defender Paul Levy asked the judge for leniency, pointing out that the house and pets also belonged to Heiney, so he also lost property and the pets Levy said he loved. He also said Heiney had changed antidepressant medications, and the one he took at the time was not effective.

Assistant District Attorney Michael Greek countered Levy’s plea for mercy, saying that Heiney ”isn’t a victim” and that he deliberately ”created the situation.”

In her protection-from-abuse order application, Beverly Heiney wrote that Thomas Heiney’s temper flared when he changed antidepressant medications. At one point, he told her the divorce ”would get nasty,” according to the application. The order was granted on Oct. 22, 2004.

Beverly Heiney, visibly shaken, told Nanovic the dog her estranged husband let out was his favorite.

”How could you let one dog out, Tom, and let the rest die?” she asked.

Heiney said he opened the door and figured the others go out, too.

Before sentencing, Nanovic listened to Heiney’s mother, sister and brother, who said Heiney was depressed and upset over the ”ugly” divorce, and that he was stressed by overwork, money worries, alcohol and erratic use of his medication.

Heiney apologized, saying, ”I’m sorry for what I put my family through.”

He said he ”kind of lost the ability to support myself and control myself,” he said. He explained that he had to pay spousal support, which left him little to live on.