WILKES-BARRE — A Hazleton couple has pleaded guilty to counts of third degree murder, admitting they started a deadly city apartment fire in 2016.
Thomas McQueen, 66, and Alice Reimiller, 54, both of Hazleton, each pleaded guilty to a single count of murder of the third degree last week. The charge was lowered from a count of murder of the second degree
A total of 14 additional charges, including counts of involuntary manslaughter, arson and reckless endangerment, were all withdrawn by prosecutors as part of a plea deal.
According to police, McQueen and Reimiller started a fire at an apartment building on East Mine Street, which lead to the death of 58-year-old Gordon Wanser, on March 9, 2016.
Fire crews reported to 104 E. Mine St. for reports of a working structure fire. Wanser’s body was recovered, and an autopsy showed he died of carbon monoxide poisoning from smoke inhalation.
The pair were arrested in July 2017, in what police Chief Jerry Speziale called a collaboration between state, county and local officials.
An investigation determined the fire had been intentionally set, and Wanser’s death was ruled a homicide by the Luzerne County Coroner’s Office.
Luzerne County Judge Michael T. Vough sentenced McQueen to between 96 and 192 months, or between eight and 16 years, in state prison. Vough sentenced Reimiller to between 72 and 144 months, or six to 12 years, in state prison.
Both McQueen and Reimiller were given 371 days credit for time served since their arrest.
Their trial had been scheduled to begin Monday.
Reach Patrick Kernan at 570-991-6386 or on Twitter @PatKernan