EAST LIVERPOOL - A concerned visitor to the city and a quick-thinking township officer led to the arrest of a man suspected of setting fire to two Anderson Boulevard houses Wednesday night.
Joseph D. Davis Jr., 27, Longs Church Road, was charged by city police with one count of arson, with other charges likely to be filed through the grand jury, according to Detective Don Fickes.
The charge is a fourth degree felony.
Davis' arrest came Wednesday night after Liverpool Township Fire Department was initially dispatched to the abandoned homes at 935 and 941 Anderson Boulevard.
The township department quickly realized the homes were actually inside city limits, having been annexed along with the former Riverview Florist property.
Firefighters found trash and papers had been ignited on the basement steps in both homes, which were extinguished with no damage to the structures except the stairs.
According to police, three people visiting from out of town saw a car pull in at a high rate of speed and the driver exit then walk between the two houses, enter one for a brief moment then enter the other one.
"The lady was so concerned she walked over and wrote down the license plate number," Fickes said.
The man saw the lady and ran back to the vehicle, taking off at a high rate of speed up Parkway, with the motor roaring and tires squealing, they told police, who said they were able to give a good description of the man.
Meanwhile, St. Clair Township K-9 officer Chris Davis overheard radio traffic about the situation and went to the address to which the license plate was registered on Longs Church Road and found a vehicle, testing the hood and finding it still warm.
A man fitting the description given by the eye witnesses came out of the residence and Patrolman Davis detained him until acting city Capt. Darin Morgan arrived and took him into custody.
At the police station, Joseph Davis initially denied having left home, but when told he was seen by witnesses, he reportedly admitted being in the house and having been looking for copper to steal, Fickes reported.
However, Davis had no cutters or even a flashlight, according to police.
Fickes commended both the witnesses who came forward and Patrolman Davis for his quick response.
Fire Chief Bill Jones said, "Everything came together for (police), the eyewitnesses, description and license plate number. Hopefully, people are being vigilant and keeping an eye on their neighborhoods. Everyone involved worked well together."
Davis appeared in East Liverpool Municipal Court Thursday before acting Judge Kyde Kelly and was bound over to Common Pleas Court on the arson charge, with cash/surety bond set at $25,000. He was also ordered to have no contact with 941 Anderson Boulevard.