Summit Hill fire set to kill children, police say — (The Morning Call)

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The Morning Call

By Chris Parker of The Morning Call chris.parker@mcall.com  610-379-3224

February 24, 2006

Mother accused of arson, attempted homicide.

A Summit Hill woman charged with trying to kill her two young children told police she did it so they wouldn’t be left behind with her boyfriend after she killed herself, court documents say.

Ada Smith, 25, of 303 E. Fell St., on Tuesday took 10 pills of the antidepressant Lexapro and gave five pills each to her children, ages 4 and 5, before pouring kerosene on a mattress in a second-floor bedroom and lighting it, police said.

Police said she then changed her mind and spirited the children out of the burning house.

Borough police officer Albert Bishline found her boyfriend, Gregory S. Pastore, 37, in the burning house and told him to get out, police said. Pastore was not injured.

The children were taken to a local hospital, where they were treated and released, police said. They are staying with relatives, said Joseph Fittos, borough acting police chief.

Smith remains in Gnaden Huetten Memorial Hospital, where she was taken for treatment of smoke inhalation.

She has yet to be arraigned on two counts each of attempted homicide; two counts of arson/recklessly endangering persons reckless endangerment; aggravated assault causing serious injury; endangering the welfare of children; and one count of arson/destroying or damaging an occupied structure.

Smith was not charged with any crimes against Pastore. Efforts to reach him for comment Thursday were unsuccessful.

On Thursday, the twin home on the quiet street showed little outward evidence of the blaze, which firefighters confined mostly to the bedroom. Windows behind screens on the second floor were darkened with soot; one was broken.

A swing set sat in the backyard and a few brightly colored plastic toys lay on the back steps.

No one answered the door of the adjoining house at 301 E. Fell St.

An arrest affidavit that Summit Hill police filed with District Judge Casimir Kosciolek of Lansford gives this account:

A fire was reported in the bedroom of the house at 3:45 a.m. Bishline found Pastore inside ”yelling that the house is on fire.”

Bishline could see smoke rolling down the stairs that led to the second floor and, as he left the house, met Smith and the children on the front porch.

Smith ”made a spontaneous statement that she had set the mattress on fire because she wanted to kill herself and her two children, and she didn’t want to leave her kids with [Pastore].”

Bishline put Smith and the children in his cruiser to get them out of the cold, then went back inside to get Pastore out of the house.

By then, fire crews had arrived.

Smith told Bishline she took 10 pills and gave the children five pills each. One of the children then began to vomit. All three were taken to hospitals.

About 6 a.m., fire marshal David P. Cusatis of state police at Hazleton, armed with a search warrant, investigated the house and determined the fire began on Smith’s mattress and had been set with an open flame.

Fittos and Carbon County Detective John Mauro interviewed Smith, who confessed to pouring kerosene on the mattress and ignited it with a lighter after giving the children the pills and taking them herself.