Suspect in arsons stands before judge

February 27, 2009 4:01:54 PM PST
One of two teenage suspects in the Coatesville arsons case went before a federal judge today in Philadelphia. In federal court today, prosecutors painted 19-year-old Mark Gilliam as someone who was obsessed with being a firefighter, but was rejected by a Chester County fire company because of his checkered background with the law in Arizona.

"He's had interest before in his juvenile record in terms of creating handmade explosive devises; he's not your average citizen in terms of someone who has interests, knowledge, and exposure to fires and firefighting," Denise Wolf of the prosecution said.

Gilliam is accused of attempting to set fire to the Happy Days Family Bistro in Thorndale. The prosecution says he is friends with Roger Barlow who is accused of setting 9 of the 24 Coatesville fires set since January 1.

According to the affidavit, Barlow told investigators that Gilliam set the fire at the diner and was a participant in the 9 Coatesville fires. Barlow later told prosecutors he lied about Gilliam's involvement in the residential fires, but did not retract his statement about Gilliam trying to set fire to the diner.

"The position of ATF is that they have Barlow being an admitted liar about 9 fires in Coatesville, but you're wanting her honor to put weight on the word of this admitted liar regarding Gilliam being involved in the diner fire," defense attorney Richard Meanix said.

The judge rejected the defenses argument.

"As to Barlow being a liar, he may very well be...that is an issue that will be straightened out at trial. I don't have him in front of me, I can't assess his credibility," Judge Carol Sandra Moore Wells said.

The judge said because Gilliam failed to show up at two hearings in Arizona and tried to flee from police she ordered him to be held without bail until a trial date is set.

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