Meadville Tribune

June 22, 2013

Police: Woman set fire in holding cell

By Keith Gushard
Meadville Tribune

MEADVILLE — A woman initially jailed on a public drunkenness charge now faces the possibility of more than 60 years in jail for allegedly setting a fire in a holding cell at Meadville Police Department early Friday morning.

Diana L. Simons, 58, of 303 Park Place, Meadville, is charged by Meadville Police with two first-degree felony counts of arson endangering persons; one second-degree felony count of arson endangering property; one third-degree felony count of causing or risking a catastrophe; one second-degree misdemeanor count of institutional vandalism; one second-degree misdemeanor count of reckless endangerment; and single summary counts of criminal mischief and public drunkenness.

Police allege Simons used a lighter to set some of her clothing on fire around 2:20 a.m. while in a holding cell at Meadville Police.

“It was missed,” Thomas Liscinski, assistant chief of police, responded when asked how Simons had access to a lighter while in a holding cell. Simons had been searched prior to being placed in the holding cell on a public drunkenness charge, Liscinski said.

There were no injuries in the incident and damage was confined to staining of the bunk, floor and walls of Simons’ holding cell, Liscinski said.

Police were called just after 1 a.m. for a report of an intoxicated person walking the streets, Liscinski said. Officers located Simons at North Main and Wallace streets at 1:08 a.m. and placed her under arrested, he said. She was put in a holding cell at the police station at Diamond Park at 1:13 a.m., Liscinski said. The fire alarm in the police station activated at 2:22 a.m., he said.

In addition to Simons, there was a police dispatcher, two cleaning crew members and one other woman in another holding cell at the time of the alleged arson, Liscinski said.

Simons was arraigned Friday morning before Magisterial District Judge William Chisholm. A reason as to why she allegedly started the fire wasn’t given. Simons was placed in the Crawford County jail in lieu of $100,000 bond. She faces a preliminary hearing on the charges before Chisholm on July 3.

If convicted in county court on all counts, Simons faces a maximum of 66 years and six months in jail and $100,600 in fines.


Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at