Hotel Fire Ruled Intentional, Death a Homicide in Pennsylvania

GREENVILLE, Pa. (AP) -- A man who died of smoke inhalation in a hotel restaurant fire last week was a victim of homicide, Mercer County Coroner J. Bradley McGonigle III ruled.

McGonigle ruled James Hall's death a homicide after a state police fire marshal determined Monday that the Aug. 16 blaze at the Otter Creek Hotel and Cantina was intentionally set.

Hall, 48, of West Salem Township, rented a room on the second floor of the hotel in Otter Creek Township. He was found dead in a hallway.

A man sought in connection with the fire, Michael R. Watson, was being held in Ashtabula County Jail in Ohio on Monday. The Ashtabula County Sheriff's Department said Friday night they didn't know on what charges Watson was being held or whether he had an attorney.

Medina County, Ohio, sheriff's deputies arrested Watson, 40, on Friday outside a truck stop in Westfield Township, a sheriff's office spokesman said.

Pennsylvania state police trooper Michael Kokoski said no charges had been filed in connection with the hotel fire.

Authorities said a burglary had preceded the fire about 4:20 a.m. They traced an emergency call made to Mercer County 911 about the fire to a cell phone owned by Watson, who was also renting a room at the hotel, police said.

Watson was on probation in Mercer County following an October conviction for burglarizing three Greenville businesses in June.

Information from: The Herald

Copyright 2005 Associated Press