Plea deal reached in campground arson

BY STACI WILSON

A Wilkes-Barre woman pleaded guilty Friday to intentionally setting fire to her Gibson-area campground home in April 2009.

Tamara Santarelli, 42, and her husband, Victor Santarelli III, 44, had also been charged with arson, conspiracy and insurance fraud in connection with the 2007 fire of a bath house, also located at the Shady Rest Campground.

The couple’s trial was scheduled to be heard this week in Susquehanna County Court.

All charges lodged against Victor Santarelli in the 2007 case were dismissed. He was not charged in connection with the 2009 house fire.

Tamara Santarelli pleaded to two counts; entering a guilty plea to one count of arson in the residence fire and one count of recklessly endangering another person in the bath house fire.

The couple purchased the campground in 2007 from Arnold and Mary Alice Manning.

According to court documents, the Santarellis have agreed to release all of the bath house insurance money, currently held in a escrow account, to the Manning’s, as restitution for damages that occurred as a result of the fire.

The Santarellis have also agreed to execute a deed in lieu of foreclosure to the Manning’s in an effort to resolve a pending mortgage foreclosure between the parties.

According to the plea deal, no agreement has been made regarding insurance proceeds from the fire at the residence. That matter was left to be resolved in civil court.

The couple was jointly represented by defense attorney Kevin Fitzgerald.

Tamara Santarelli is scheduled to appear for sentencing in front of Susquehanna County President Judge Kenneth Seamans on Feb. 24.

District Attorney Jason Legg said he consulted with the Mannings and the two fire marshals and they all agreed with the resolution.

Legg said the plea agreement was not perfect or ideal but “was the best solution for the Mannings given their current age and the defendants’ financial resources.”

Legg said, “While I am sure that the Mannings will never be made whole as a result of the dealings with the Santarellis, this resolution provides the fastest and most meaningful restitution that the Mannings could have hoped to receive out of this criminal litigation.”

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