Meadville Tribune

March 11, 2014

Man pleads guilty to setting apartment on fire

By Keith Gushard
Meadville Tribune

MEADVILLE — A confrontation with the mother of his child is what a Vernon Township man said caused him to set ablaze his apartment and later place his young child along the side of the road in 2012.

Ryan Kelley Pasquito, 28, may spend up to 25 years in jail after pleading guility Monday in Crawford County Court of Common Pleas to one count of arson and endangering the welfare of a child for the Nov. 8, 2012, incident at his then-second-story Berkshire Drive apartment at Timbercrest Apartments.

Pasquito was charged by Vernon Township police with one count each of arson, aggravated assault, endangering the welfare of a child, risking a catastrophe and disorderly conduct and 15 counts of recklessly endangering another person. If convicted in county court on all charges, Pasquito had faced up to 93 years in jail and $167,500 in fines.

In a plea agreement with the Crawford County District Attorney’s Office, Pasquito agreed to plead guilty to a charge of arson, a first-degree felony, and a charge of endangering the welfare of children, first-degree misdemeanor.

He faces up to 20 years in jail on the arson charge and up to five years on the endangerment charge when sentenced in April.

“I had a confrontation with a young lady and I got worked into a manic state,” Pasquito told Judge Mark Stevens about why he started the fire. The answer came during extensive questioning by the judge before Stevens accepted the plea.

Pasquito admitted to setting fire to a pile of clothes and debris in the center of his apartment around 1 p.m. Nov. 8, 2012, following the confrontation with the woman.

Vernon Township Police said Pasquito then called Crawford County 911, claiming he started the blaze.

Police found Pasquito carrying his 1-year-old child along the berm of Route 19, a short distance from the complex that is off Mullen Road. Pasquito said he put the child gently on the roadside and continued walking before his subsequent arrest by police.

Pasquito admitted it was true.

“I understand what I did that day,” Pasquito said in court Monday. “I’ve thought it over a lot. I’m thinking clearly.”

Pasquito had undergone a court-ordered mental health evaluation and was deemed competent to stand trial. Pasquito was due to go to trial this month in county court before reaching the plea agreement with the district attorney’s office.

District Attorney Francis Schultz said he was pleased an agreement was reached in the case.

“It’s a serious case,” Schultz said Monday. “He entered a guilty plea to the most serious charge — the arson — and endangering his child. We were able to get a guilty verdict on a felony of the first degree without going to trial.”

As part of the plea agreement, the district attorney’s office will recommend the sentences imposed on the arson and child endangerment pleas run at the same time. Also under the agreement, Pasquito will make restitution of an estimated $25,868.88 for fire damage and another $2,500 for the insurance deductible.

Pasquito remains lodged in the Crawford County jail in Saegertown in lieu of $75,000 bond and awaits sentencing April 30.