Man Charged in New Castle Arson

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New Castle police have charged a man they say set fire to a house with a woman inside because of an alcohol-fueled domestic fight.

Jason Merlini, 39, was charged Friday with 18 counts, including 10 first-degree felonies that say he tried to burn down a home in the 300 block of Warner Alley in Taylor Township late Thursday night.  New Castle Police Chief Robert Salem said the suspect was taken to a Pittsburgh hospital for treatment of a broken nose as well as a mental evaluation.

According to reports, Merlini’s wife, Denise Merlini, called police and told them her husband had doused the house with gasoline and set it on fire.

Denise Merlini told officers Jason Merlini went to “The Turf” bar after work around 4 p.m. and never came home for dinner. Later, Denise Merlini went to the bar and said she witnessed the bartender take Merlini’s keys after which he began to walk home. Merlini’s wife then left the bar, picked up her husband and dropped him off at home and then went back to the bar.

When she returned home around 11 p.m., Merlini had allegedly poured gasoline on the house and was playing with a lighter. According to reports, Merlini’s wife accused her husband of trying to burn the house down to which he said, “If that’s what you want, then that’s what I’ll do.” At that point, the report stated that Merlini’s wife ran from the house and called police.

When officers arrived, smoke was billowing from the house and they could see flames.

Officers found Merlini, who slid down some stairs on his stomach, inside the home. He told police “Leave me alone. I want to die,” police said. Officers pulled the man down the stairs and out of the home.

The charges against Jason Merlini carry a combined maximum sentence of 217 years in prison, though some charges could merge or change. He faces five counts of arson, one count of aggravated domestic violence assault, four counts of aggravated assaults five counts of endangering another person and two other arson and arson-related charges.

The five counts of endangering another person include Merlini’s wife and four officers who searched the home for other people when they arrived on the scene.

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