Judge orders department store to release records related to fatal Laflin fire

By Patrick Kernan - [email protected]
Bonnett -

WILKES-BARRE — A Luzerne County judge has signed an order demanding a New York City department store hand over information from an IP address that’s been associated with the accused arsonist in a Laflin triple-homicide case.

The attached search warrant also points to sexually explicit photos seemingly used as blackmail by the defendant.

Preston Bonnett, 28, is facing three counts each of homicide and arson after the Oct. 28 fire that killed Erik Dupree, 16, Devon Major, 12, and Ezekiel Major, 7. Prosecutors say Bonnett started the fire after a period of harassing the boys’ mother, Susan Major, a former romantic partner of Bonnett’s.

A search warrant that appeared in Luzerne County Court on Wednesday indicated that two weeks before he allegedly started the fire, prosecutors believe Bonnett posted sexually explicit photos of Susan Major on the windows, facing inward so the residents of the home could see.

Written on the photos, in addition to sexually graphic language, was a phone number.

“Better think smart and text me ASAP!! Or I’m coming back!” read the note on one of the photos.

Major told investigators she believes Bonnett posted the photos, as she believes he was the only one who had them, and phrases written on the photos were ones she had heard him use before.

Prosecutors began investigating the phone number, and found the service was provided by a company called Pinger. The search warrant says the Pinger account associated with the phone number was registered to a person named “Preston” and was opened on July 21, 2017.

The Pinger account was associated with an IP address which was found to be operated by a Century 21 Department Store located in Manhattan.

Prosecutors filed a search warrant, asking to be granted access to all pertinent information associated with the IP address, and Luzerne County Judge Michael T. Vough signed an order Wednesday directing the company to release the information. The search warrant says a representative from the company would not be able to release the information without a court order being filed.

Vough’s order also says the department store cannot disclose the order to anyone until any further notice.

At this point, Bonnett remains locked up in the Luzerne County Correctional Facility. He’s currently set to go to trial on Jan. 28, 2019.


By Patrick Kernan

[email protected]

Reach Patrick Kernan at 570-991-6386 or on Twitter @PatKernan

Reach Patrick Kernan at 570-991-6386 or on Twitter @PatKernan