Jury selected for trial of couple accused in campground arsons

BY STACI WILSON

The case against a Wilkes-Barre couple who face arson and fraud charges in connection with two fires at an area campground heads to trial next week in the Susquehanna County Court of Common Pleas.

Jury selection was held Monday for the trial of Tamara Santarelli and her husband, Victor Santarelli III.

The trial is slated to begin Monday, Jan. 11, and is expected to last up to five days. President Judge Kenneth Seamans will preside over the case.

The couple owned the Shady Rest Campground, Gibson Twp. when fire broke out in a bath house on the property in Nov. 2007. They had purchased the property earlier that same year.

The Santarelli’s campground home burned in April 2009.

Investigators from the Pennsylvania State Police Fire Marshal’s Unit, Dunmore, determined both blazes were intentionally set.

District Attorney Jason Legg said investigators found similarities in both of the fires.

Charges were filed against the couple in November 2009.

Victor Santarelli is charged only in connection with the 2007 fire. He faces felony arson and insurance fraud charges.

Tamara Santarelli faces felony arson and insurance fraud charges in connection with both the 2007 and the 2009 fires.

The couple is jointly represented by defense attorney Kevin Fitzgerald.

Witnesses for the prosecution will include three state police fire marshals and the fire chiefs from local companies that responded to the blazes.

The district attorney also plans to call Alice and Arnold Manning who sold the campground to the Santarelli’s in 2007.

Fitzgerald told prospective jurors the case also involves issues regarding a natural gas lease and the sale of the property.

After attorneys questioned the pool of potential jurors, 10 men and two women were seated to hear the case. Two alternates, a man and a woman, were also selected.

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