Photo by Joseph Bell
RIDGWAY - The preliminary hearing for Francis Anthony Milliard, 54, of Ridgway, charged in connection with two area arsons as well as the attempted murder of a Ridgway man, resulted in those charges being upheld by District Judge George A. "Tony" King in Elk County Court on Wednesday.
With the purpose of a preliminary hearing being to determine whether sufficient evidence exists to support felony criminal charges before proceeding, Elk County District Attorney Bradley J. Kraus, in an effort to connect Francis Milliard to the crimes charged, called as witness Milliard's son Anthony Karl Milliard, 28, of Ridgway, who is charged along with his father in the arsons committed in Ridgway and Johnsonburg.
During his testimony Wednesday, Anthony Milliard said he was directed by his father to set the fires at 115 First Ave. in Johnsonburg on Dec. 8, 2008, and 521 West Main St. in Ridgway May 30, 2012.
Anthony Milliard also testified that he witnessed his father assault Todd "TJ" Asti, 44, of Ridgway, over what he said was a $240 drug debt.
In setting the fires, Anthony Milliard said his father supplied him with the incendiary materials and drove him to and from the locations.
When questioned about the 115 First Ave. Johnsonburg fire, which investigators deemed arson, Anthony Karl Milliard testified that his father owned the property. He said two weeks prior to the fire on Dec. 8, 2008, his father said "he wanted me to burn the house down."
Anthony Milliard said his father's intentions were to collect insurance money through a fire policy on the home. Police reports state that Francis Milliard filed a claim with Milville Mutual Insurance Company the day after the fire and on March 6, 2009 received a check worth $8,888.49.
In his testimony, Anthony Milliard described how he went about setting the fire saying, "I went inside the house, put gas [gasoline] all over, lit a rag and threw it."
Kraus asked Anthony Milliard why he set the fire, to which he replied, "because I was told to by my father."
Anthony Milliard said at 3 a.m. on May 30, 2012, his father drove him into Ridgway with instructions that he set fire to the 519 West Main St. residence of Michelle Park.
Anthony Milliard said his father again supplied him with a container of gasoline and a rag. Anthony said his father then parked his van at the West End Supermarket and pointed out Michelle Park's home.
Anthony Milliard said he walked between two houses and then set fire to the back porch of what he later learned was the 521 West Main St. home of Pauline Smith.