SALEM TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE 28/WYOU 22 EYEWITNESS NEWS) — A Berwick man accused of setting fire to his own business and then going on the run is on the run no longer.
Eyewitness News learned Friday night that police tracked him down hundreds of miles from home. We also learned what investigators say was the motive for the fire.
Less than 24 hours after police say he fled Pennsylvania, authorities arrested 31-year-old Michael Beck. Police took him into custody Friday night around 7:30 at a shopping center in Dublin, Ohio.
Investigators say Beck torched his business, ‘The Rage Room’ in Salem Township, Thursday night along Main Street. The business is a place where people pay to smash objects for fun in a controlled environment.
“We have reason to believe that the motive behind the arson was a dispute between himself and his stepfather, and it was retaliatory in nature,” Luzerne County District Attorney Sam Sanguedolce said.
Police say the fight between Beck and his stepfather, Salem Township Supervisor Malcom Plevyak, centered on ownership of the property. A fight which investigators say led to flames.
“Salem Township firefighters responded and thankfully were able to extinguish the blaze within an hour’s time. Investigators responded, notably the Salem Township police, Luzerne County’s District Attorney’s office, and the Pennsylvania State Police,” Sanguedolce said.
More details came to light Friday. A witness who worked at the business told police Beck asked and found out that all the customers were out of the building. Police say Beck took his 10-year-old son home and returned to the business with what the witness described as a can of gasoline and doused the business.
The witness said Beck told him and another worker they had a ‘small amount of time’ to get out of the building. According to court paperwork, Beck went back home again and returned to ‘The Rage Room’ with matches. The witness told police he left after Beck appeared to start lighting the building on fire.
“Upon conducting the scene examination, and discovering evidence to it, it was determined that it is an arson fire,” PSP Fire Marshal Trooper Karri Dodson said.
Beck faces charges of arson, reckless burning or exploding, endangering the welfare of children and other related charges.
Police say Beck will be extradited to Pennsylvania to answer to the charges, but they’re not sure how soon that will happen.