Preliminary hearing for arsonist, district attorney to push murder charge

4-8 015By Jaime Thomas

Stephen Gyarmathy did not intend to burn the building at 44 Mettowee St. when he poured gasoline on the stairwell and set it alight.

At least that’s what he said in a written statement taken by state police hours after the deed was done. On Thursday, Gyarmathy had a preliminary hearing in Granville village court for second-degree arson charges.

The charges stem from a March 25 fire he admitted to starting that left 11 residents temporarily homeless, endangered them and caused minor harm to one of them.

After his defense attorney, Michael Mercure, questioned investigator Joseph Bearor on the circumstances surrounding Gyarmathy’s statement, Village Justice Paul Manchester found cause to send him to the grand jury in Washington County.

And Washington County District Attorney Kevin Kortright said he intends to upgrade the charges for both Gyarmathy and his accomplice, Joseph Guerrier, to attempted murder.

“We believe the facts of the case support attempted murder,” Kortright said on Thursday, referring to the 15 people who were in the building at the time of the fire.

Among other questions during the hearing, Mercure asked Bearor how the defendant originally became a lead.

“We interviewed any people with connections to those in the apartment building or those with a possible beef,” Bearor said. Mercure went on to ask a number of questions ensuring Gyarmathy was free to leaving during interrogation, as he was not in custody.

However, Gyarmathy stayed and confessed his motive and means for starting the fire. During the hearing, he kept his head down and occasionally shook it in apparent disapproval of his own actions.

Guerrier chose not to have a preliminary hearing but still faces charges.

Kortright said the case should be complete from indictment through trial within three months. He said he has much praise for Granville police, state and county fire investigators and state police.

“I can’t say enough about what a professional job they did,” Kortright said.

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