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Berks County's #10 & #9 stories of 2013

By Jennifer Joas, Reporter, JJoas@wfmz.com
Published On: Dec 25 2013 04:37:17 PM CST
Updated On: Dec 27 2013 01:37:05 PM CST

The new year is right around the corner, but before we say goodbye to 2013, we are taking a look back at the year's biggest stories as selected by 69 News viewers in an online poll.

The new year is right around the corner, but before we say goodbye to 2013, we are taking a look back at the year's biggest stories as selected by 69 News viewers in an online poll.

We get things started with a man set on fire inside a Reading sandwich shop.

"This dude comes out and he is fully ablaze. He is on fire and I was scared to look at him directly. I did not want to see his flesh burning off. It was intense," said witness Peter Jenkins.

Jenkins recounted the moments he saw Joel Fontanez, 35, on fire inside Citi Subs at South 10th and Cotton streets in Reading on April 30. Authorities said Fontanez was intentionally doused with a flammable liquid and set on fire.   

It took police nearly three months to issue a warrant for the man they said was responsible.

"I want justice to be served. I want whoever it is taken into custody," said the victim's girlfriend, Jazmin Candelario.

On July 29, Thomas Lopez surrendered to authorities and was charged with attempted homicide, aggravated assault and arson. According to police, Fontanez was dating Lopez's ex-girlfriend. Fontanez was severely burned in the attack and spent almost two months in a medically induced coma.

The next story that tied for number eight involved the killing of Hope Babel in 2002.

It was the first homicide in the history of Shoemakersville, but the case went cold for nearly 11 years. That was until authorities arrested Ryan Stufflet, 28, in May 2013. Police said Stufflet, who was best friends with Babel's son, beat her unconscious and then set her apartment on fire.

"There was a fire that was started in there. The fire was ultimately what killed her," said Lt. Raymond Guth, Pa. State Police.

Detectives arrested Stufflet on homicide charges on May 14, along with his mother, Tina, for allegedly lying to police. Neighbors were relieved the case was coming to an end.

"It is good because there was always a question as to who did it," said neighbor Larry Hoffman.