(from a press release)
Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin R. Steele, Upper Moreland Township Police Chief Andrew J. Block and Lower Moreland Police Chief David J. Scirrotto announce the arrest of Sean Gahagan, 56, on multiple felony arson charges as well as risking catastrophe and other charges.
The criminal charges are related to fires that occurred on Dec. 29, 2023, at a commercial business in Upper Moreland Township and on a residential property in the Huntingdon Valley section of Lower Moreland Township.
At approximately 8:45 p.m. on Dec. 29, 2023, firefighters and Upper Moreland Police were dispatched to a fire at JG Transmissions, an auto mechanic shop at 616 Davisville Road. Upon arrival, they found the commercial building engulfed in flames, with the worst of the fire centered around the front office area of the building.
Just 15 minutes before, at approximately 8:30 p.m., Lower Moreland Police were called to a residence on Huntingdon Pike for a shed fire on the back of the property. The fire was put out by police using with a fire extinguisher prior to the arrival of firefighters.
An investigation into the cause of the fire, which completely destroyed JG Transmissions and caused limited damage to the shed, found that both fires were intentionally set. Inside the shed, fire investigators found a can of fire-starting fluid and a can of “Gum Cutter,” which is a highly flammable product used to clean various parts of automotive engines. The fire investigators also found that “Gum Cutter” is a product used by JG Transmissions.
A joint investigation by Upper Moreland and Lower Moreland Police found that Gahagan, a former employee of JG Transmissions, had visited the business at 10 a.m. on the day of the fire asking for work, but was told none was available.
At the time of his unannounced visit, Gahagan was wearing a hooded camouflage jacket and driving a red Chevrolet Cobalt. Detectives secured surveillance video from the 600 block of Davisville Road captured a Cobalt type vehicle parking at a business near JG Transmissions, then showed a male running from the car toward JG Transmissions and running back to car about six minutes before the fire was reported to 911.
Surveillance video from near the residential fire also captured Gahagan’s vehicle just before the fire was discovered. Additionally, license plate readers nearby captured the vehicle’s license plate, which was matched to Gahagan’s vehicle.
On Jan. 1, 2024, Lebanon City Police arrested Gahagan for trespassing inside a church. At the time of his arrest, Gahagan was wearing a camouflage jacket that matched the subject’s jacket seen in surveillance video running from the fire at JG Transmissions.
Gahagan, of Lebanon, is charged with first-degree felony arson, as well as six other felony counts of arson, risking catastrophe, burglary, theft by unlawful taking, criminal mischief and possessing an instrument of crime.
He was arraigned on Jan. 19, 2024, by Magisterial District Judge Denise Ashe, who set bail at $500,000 cash, and Gahagan was remanded to the Montgomery County Correctional Facility. A bail review hearing is scheduled in the Court of Common Pleas for Jan. 26, 2024.
A preliminary hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m., Jan. 29, 2024, before Magisterial District Judge Thomas P. Murt. The case will be prosecuted by Assistant Chief of Trials Tanner Beck.