July 24, 2008


Arson defendants appear in City Court


Robert Jennison/Cortland Fire Department photo     
A view from the Cortland Fire Department’s aerial ladder truck shows the damage done to the roof and third floor of 29 Pleasant St., which burned July 11 as a result of what police have said is arson. The fire began in the second-floor room on the right.

Staff Reporter

Two area men accused of arson in connection with separate city fires appeared Wednesday in City Court.
Joseph D. Tiderencel, 24, whose last known address was 37 South Ave., appeared in City Court with his court-appointed attorney, Michael Cardinale, and withdrew his request for a felony hearing in order for the case to be transferred to Cortland County Court. Cardinale said it will be presented to a grand jury.
Tiderencel was arrested July 12 and charged with third-degree arson, second-degree burglary, felonies; and petit larceny and second-degree reckless endangerment, misdemeanors, after he allegedly set fire to the house on 29 Pleasant St., owned by Daniel Mullins.
In his statement to police officers, Tiderencel said he accidentally started the fire when he dropped a lit cigarette in a second-floor bedroom in Mullins’ home.
However, under state law, third-degree arson is a crime in which a person intentionally damages a building or motor vehicle by lighting a fire or causing an explosion. Tiderencel claimed he never meant to damage Mullins’ house or property.
The July 12 fire at 29 Pleasant St., which started at approximately 3:30 a.m., destroyed the house.
Fire investigator Vincent Minnella said his team’s initial examination of the home confirmed the fire had probably started in the upstairs bedroom, and investigators had found nothing directly contradictory to Tiderencel’s statement to police.
Investigators later returned to the bedroom after inspectors confirmed the remaining structure was safe enough to allow workers to enter the upstairs area.
Minnella said his team had completed its examination of the house, but that the fire remains under investigation.
Tiderencel has been held on $1,000 cash or $2,000 bond bail in the Cortland County Jail since his arrest.
Justin J. Chaffee, 20, of 181 Homer Ave., also appeared Wednesday in City Court. Also represented by Cardinale, Chaffee requested a two-week adjournment in his case for bail review.
Chaffee is accused of starting a fire June 27 in the Hewitt Building at 21 Clinton Ave.
He was arrested June 28 after police identified him on surveillance video taken at Crown City Cleaners, a laundry business in the building.
He told police he had a note from his ex-girlfriend in the back room of the laundry, and that he only meant to burn the note.
Police charged him with third-degree arson, a felony, and second-degree reckless endangerment, a misdemeanor.
Cardinale said he and Chaffee disagree with the charge of third-degree arson, since, as in Tiderencel’s case, the charge requires intent.
The fire caused heavy smoke damage to Crown City Cleaners, the Cortland Army-Navy Surplus Store and Made to Order, a consignment store that had been set to open for the first time the following Monday.
Made to Order, owned by Lawrence and Warna Spraker of Locke, has since moved to a new location, a few doors down on Clinton Avenue next door to Underground Leather.
Chaffee will appear Aug. 6 for the bail review hearing, at which point Judge Thomas Meldrim will determine whether to reduce Chaffee’s bail. He is currently being held on $5,000 cash or $10,000 bond.


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