July 31--A Greenwich Township man has been charged with setting a two-alarm blaze nearly five years ago that destroyed the office of a limousine and bus service in Ontelaunee Township where he worked at the time.
Billy Jo Keim, 40, of the 1500 block of Old Route 22 surrendered to Northern Berks Regional police Tuesday after Detective Sgt. Brian Horner filed the charges a few days earlier.
Keim, who lived in Blandon at the time of the fire, remained free to await further court action on arson and related offenses and theft charges following arraignment before District Judge Thomas M. Gauby Sr. in Bern Township.
Numerous fire companies battled the blaze Oct. 27, 2009, at Truck Wash/Majesty Coach & Tours on Willow Creek Road after a worker discovered the fire about 5:15 a.m. and called 9-1-1. The fire caused more than $200,000 damage.
Horner said police recently received information about the case and he interviewed Keim at the police station July 16. He said Keim admitted to intentionally starting the fire because he was mad.
Horner provided the following account:
The day before the fire, Keim was told by his landlord, John Moody, who was also operations manager at Truck Wash/Majesty Coach, that he and his fiance would need to find a new home because Moody was selling the house they were renting.
Keim became more upset and angry as the day progressed and couldn't sleep that night. About 2 a.m. the morning of the fire, he left the house and decided to deliver newspapers on his paper route.
Before delivery the papers, he stopped at Majesty Coach, where he worked on the cleaning crew, to get something to eat in the snack room. Keim had a key to the business.
While he was sitting in the break room, he noticed an exposed electrical wire in the wall next to the office. He used a cigarette light to ignite the wire. The coating of the wire melted onto the carpet, igniting it and he panicked.
He grabbed a fire extinguisher from the wall and claimed it didn't work. He put the extinguisher back and left while the fire was still burning.
While delivering papers, he heard on his radio that there was a fire and traffic was backed up near the business.
He called a co-worker, Brendan L. Brannon, to ask what happened. Brannon said the bus service was on fire.
Keim went to the business after completing his paper route and watched firefighters until he was cleared to enter the building. Keim and Brannon helped Moody to salvage items from the office and take them to another building at the facility.
While going through the debris Keim found money in an envelope with cash receipts from the truck wash and a bus casino trip. Keim and Brannon agreed to steal the $2,450 and split it. Moody later found the empty, charred envelope and reported the theft to police.
An arrest warrant has been issued for Brannon, whose last known address is an apartment in the 200 block of North Apple Street in Hamburg. He is charged with theft and conspiracy charges. Brannon, who is not charged in the arson, remained at large Wednesday.
A state police fire investigator initially determined an electrical malfunction caused the fire and ruled it accidental.
According to court records, an insurance company paid a $227,143 claim to the business for the loss.
Contact Steven Henshaw: 610-371-5028 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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