Monday, January 29, 2024

DCNR Files Arson Charges Against Frackville Man for Mother's Day Brush Fire in West Mahanoy Township

A Frackville man is wanted by authorities on arson charges for starting a large brush fire last year in West Mahanoy Township.
A criminal investigation into a wildfire that ravaged over 133 acres of forest land in West Mahanoy Township, Schuylkill County on Mother's Day last year,  has led authorities to 30-year-old Jeffrey Smulligan, of Frackville, a suspect who not only admitted to starting the fire but also livestreamed the act on Facebook Live. 

The incident unfolded on May 14, 2023, prompting a detailed investigation by Jacob Novitsky, a State Forest Officer and Forest Fire Warden for DCNR.

The affidavit, filed in support of an arrest warrant for Smulligan, details the events that transpired.

Responding to a wildfire near Morea Road / Lia Road in West Mahanoy Township, Novitsky, along with local fire departments and West Mahanoy Townhip Police Officer John Kazmarczyk, initiated efforts to control the blaze. It was during this operation that suspicions arose about the origin of the fire.

Officer Kazmarczyk received information that Smulligan, using the Facebook display name "Yoda Blink Funk," had not only livestreamed the incident but also admitted to starting the fire in messages exchanged with a friend. The conversation revealed Smulligan's nonchalant attitude toward the dangerous situation, with messages like "I know. Fuck a fire," and "I was told to leave."

During the investigation after the fire, authorities faced challenges in tracking down Smulligan, who had reportedly moved and disconnected his phone. Despite efforts by Officer Kazmarczyk, DCNR Special Investigator Terry Smith, and other officials, Smulligan remained elusive.

On October 19, 2023, a search warrant for Smulligan's Facebook account, "Yoda Blink," uncovered images of the wildfire and incriminating messages. However, subsequent attempts to locate Smulligan failed, even after finding a new address in Frackville.

With Smulligan being a no-show for scheduled meetings, authorities faced obstacles in bringing him to justice. During visit to a home on Railroad Street in Frackville where Smulligan was believed to be staying, his mother revealed that he suffered from schizophrenia and had been off his medications, raising concerns about his mental state.

Despite exhaustive efforts by law enforcement, the conclusion of the affidavit emphasizes probable cause for Smulligan's arrest. The investigation, based on the origin and cause determination, pointed to an incendiary act, willfully started with malicious intent.

On Monday, January 29th, 2024, Smulligan was charged with arson involving danger of death or bodily injury, arson endangering property, maliciously setting fire to a forest, risking catastrophe, recklessly burning, and recklessly endangering another person.

UPDATE:  Smulligan was taken into custody late Monday and arraigned before Magisterial District Judge Edward Tarantelli.  He was released on $25,000 unsecured bail.

For photos and original story on the fire, visit our link below: