A Johnsonburg man has been charged for the fire Dec. 30 that destroyed the former Johnsonburg Hotel building.
Andrew John Higdon, 30, of 416 First Ave., Johnsonburg, is charged with four counts of arson, danger of death or bodily injury — all first-degree felonies; intent to destroy an unoccupied building — a second-degree felony, arson endangering property, reckless endangerment of inhabited buildings — a second-degree felony; burglary, criminal trespass, two counts of reckless burning or exploding, criminal mischief and false reports, as well as recklessly endangering another person.
Johnsonburg City Police Chief John Clopp was dispatched to the fire Dec. 30. While on scene, he reported seeing an individual exit Smith Motors and approach Clopp. The individual, identified as Higdon, claimed to have seen an individual exit the hotel 30 minutes prior, giving a clothing description and the name of a known individual to Clopp at that time. The detail of the description was suspicious, according to police reports, because of the distance Higdon would have been from the suspect and the fact the suspect would have been walking away at the time.
Upon interviewing two other individuals in Smith Motors, who had to be evacuated from the area due to the proximity to the fire, Clopp discovered Higdon had been at the location since 1 p.m. and had left approximately three times for spans of 10 to 15 minutes each time.
Police indicated that, throughout the several hours required to extinguish the fire, Higdon remained on-scene, appearing nervous and pacing back and forth.
A second interview with Higdon led to him stating there was “Satan graffiti” throughout the hotel, despite initial claims he had never been inside. Police say that when this discrepancy was noted, Higdon admitted he started the fire on the third level of the hotel.
Approximately 80 firefighters were involved in fighting the fire, including the Johnsonburg Volunteer Fire Department, Wilcox Fire Department, Crystal Fire Department and Ridgway Fire Department. Elkland Search and Rescue and St. Marys Ambulance also responded.
Bail was set at $50,000 for Higdon, who was remanded to Elk County Prison.
A preliminary hearing is set for today in front of Magisterial District Judge Barry Brown.