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Arson case thrown out after suspect dies in fire

Kenneth Atkinson died in a fire at an abandoned home four days after being charged with attempting to start another fire


Renatta Signorini
Tribune-Review

WESTMORELAND COUNTY, Pa. — An arson case against a McKeesport man filed in Westmoreland County was dismissed Tuesday after he was identified as the victim of a fatal fire in Elizabeth during the weekend.

Westmoreland County Assistant District Attorney Kelly Tua Hammers and Allegheny County police confirmed that Kenneth James Atkinson, 54, was killed in the Sunday fire, four days after being charged with trying to start a blaze at a Scottdale home on Dec. 26.

Allegheny County police reported that Atkinson's body was found inside a Williamsport Road home in Elizabeth at 7:30 p.m. Sunday. Firefighters dragged the body outside and the fire was extinguished, according to police. The blaze is under investigation. The home was initially thought to be abandoned and unoccupied, police said.

About a week earlier, Atkinson allegedly broke into the basement of a North Broadway Street home in Scottdale at 4 a.m. Dec. 26 and lit furnace filters on fire, according to a criminal complaint filed Jan. 3 by Scottdale police. Atkinson had been hired as a temporary handyman by the property owner, but became angry when he was let go, police said.

The home's occupants were able to escape after a smoke alarm alerted them.

Atkinson denied breaking into the basement, police said.

A bail revocation hearing in that case had been scheduled for Wednesday. Atkinson had been free on recognizance bond.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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