Lehigh Valley

Bethlehem police allege man tried to ignite gas-filled home

Authorities say 20 people were in 4 adjacent homes

BETHLEHEM, Pa. - A Northampton County man is facing nearly two dozen charges after authorities allege he filled his house with natural gas and tried to blow it up.

Bethlehem police charged Dennis L. Sandt III with attempted arson, risking catastrophe, resisting arrest and 20 counts of reckless endangerment after finding small fires set throughout his gas-filled Mansfield Court home earlier this month.

District Judge Joseph Barner arraigned the 27-year-old Wednesday afternoon, setting bail at $100,000.

Police were dispatched to the Bethlehem Housing Authority home in the 1100 block of Mansfield Court about 6:15 p.m. Oct. 5 to investigate a possible domestic assault. Witnesses reported hearing a man and woman screaming and possibly the sound of things being broken inside the house, according to court records.

Police said a responding officer was familiar with the address having been called there several times before, according to records.

When authorities arrived, officers said they immediately smelled natural gas coming from the home, and no one responded when they tried to get a resident to answer the door. Fearing someone was injured, police forced their way inside.

They were immediately met by the “exceptionally strong” smell of natural gas and smoke. Police immediately began evacuating residents from the four other attached homes.

In the kitchen, police said they found two stove burners turned on high with the pilot light extinguished. The kitchen curtains and a small book on the kitchen floor were smoldering.

In the living room, a large pile of bedding, a pillow and part of a wooden chest was smoldering.

In a bedroom, a tissue was smoldering. And two fire alarms had been yanked from the wiring in the ceiling and the batteries removed, according to court records.

Police said they found Sandt laying on the bed. Officers tried several times to wake him, and Sandt eventually told police, “Just let me die,” according to records.

When police tried to take him into custody, Sandt initially refused before starting to gather items from the bedroom, telling police that he was leaving. A struggle ensued, and officers tried unsuccessfully three times to use a Taser on Sandt. At one point, he reportedly pulled the probes from his shirt and insisted he was leaving the home.

The woman with whom Sandt was involved told investigators that he regularly made threats since August to “burn the place down.” He made the threat when they argued as they had done that night. She told police that she checked to make no burners were turned on before she left that night.

Police said there were six adults and 14 children in the four adjoining homes when they began evacuating.

Sandt failed to post bail and was sent to Northampton County Prison to await a preliminary hearing scheduled for Nov. 6.

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