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Investigators search burned-out shell of police chief, school principal's home in Newmanstown

By Ryan Hughes, Reporter, RHughes@wfmz.com
Published On: Jun 17 2013 03:29:57 PM CDT
Updated On: Jun 17 2013 05:11:03 PM CDT

Pennsylvania State Police are now involved in a fire investigation one month after a police chief and school principal's home burned to the ground.

MILLCREEK TWP., Pa. -

Pennsylvania State Police are now involved in a fire investigation one month after a police chief and school principal's home burned to the ground.

Trooper Michael Yeity, a Reading-based state police fire marshal, on Monday executed a warrant to search the burned-out shell of a home at 3 Cottage Lane in Millcreek Twp., Lebanon Co.

According to the search warrant, traces of gasoline were found in a soil sample at the home.

State police were tight-lipped regarding the investigation, but according to the warrant, investigators were looking for items that may have caused an accidental fire or items that were used to intentionally start the fire. According to the warrant, they were looking for ignitable liquids, flammables and ignition sources like matches.

"I heard it was intentional. That's all I heard, nothing more," said Ben Grinev, who lives near Boyer's house on Cottage Lane.

According to neighbors, rumors have been running rampant for weeks.

Boyer, chief of the Heidelberg Twp. Police Dept. in Berks County, and his girlfriend, Caroline diCenso, principal of Spring Ridge Elementary in the Wilson School District, narrowly escaped with their lives on May 16.

Their dog, Lily, woke them up moments before the roof collapsed. The home was left gutted with caution tape still hanging from windows and a fence outlining the property with no trespassing signs.

"Those rumors were the very next day. Did somebody start it? Was it arson? Then, it kind of fizzled," said Chris Hauck, who lives three houses down from Boyer.

After learning about the warrant, many in the quiet community feared the rumors could be true.

Mike Triboli, the Lebanon County fire marshal, ruled the fire undetermined. According to the warrant, a private fire investigator was hired by State Farm Insurance on May 16. The investigator removed a soil sample near the front porch area that tested positive for gasoline.

Boyer contacted state police last week to pass along the insurance company's findings.

"It's pretty scary considering it's so close to our house. It's like right across the street," said Max Astakhov, who watched the flames from his house early that morning.

"You just don't see that or even hear that around here. It's just very quiet and calm. It's unwavering, really," said Hauck.

Neighbors said Boyer's home was up for sale at the time.

According to the search warrant, no items were removed by state police on Monday.