Posted at: 03/25/2013 11:39 AM
Updated at: 03/27/2013 10:01 AM
By: Beth Wurtmann
GRANVILLE - Broken glass and debris were littered around the charred doorway where police said a fire was intentionally set just before 2 a.m. Monday morning.
They later charged 44-year-old Stephen Gyarmathy and 56-year-old Joseph Guerrier with arson and reckless endangerment.
"The motive had to with the chance in visitation and the possible custody status between the female in the apartment and one of the males that was arrested," said Thomas Aiken, senior investigator with the New York State Police.
Police said Gyarmathy had custody of a 7-year-old son and was upset that the boy's mother, his ex-girlfriend, would be getting more visitation time.
Police said Gyarmathy borrowed Guerrier's gas can and poured some of the gasoline at the case of the stairs and up the steps, the one exit for the upstairs back apartment.
"An apartment that held 11 people and the only exit to the building was on fire. It could have been a very tragic accident," said Washington County Sheriff Jeffrey Murphy.
Emergency crews had to rescue the ex-girlfriend and a number of tenants, some from a roof porch. The boy was not home at the time of the fire.
One neighbor who was asleep during the fire said he's shocked that it could have been intentional.
"It could have been 12 people dead just over custody. I don' t know doesn't make sense to me," said Mack Rozell, the neighbor.
Police said both of the accused men have lengthy criminal records, including a murder conviction for Guerrier.
More charges are pending.