CLEARFIELD — Michael George Bickle, 23, of DuBois, pleaded guilty to arson and theft charges and was sentenced to serve three to six years in state prison by Judge Paul Cherry earlier this week at Colloquy Court.
Bickle pleaded guilty to arson, a felony of the first degree; and theft by unlawful taking, a felony of the third degree.
“The facts of this case are quite serious,” Cherry said. “I would apologize for risking the lives of other people.”
Bickle said he isn’t the same person now. He said he was under the influence of drugs at the time. He said he is an addict and did the crimes to get money to buy drugs.
“I know it’s not an excuse,” Bickle said, adding he said he would like to go to drug rehabilitation.
“I’m trying to do something with myself.”
In addition to the prison sentence, Cherry gave Bickle five years consecutive probation, which means Bickle will either be in jail or on parole/probation for the next 11 years.
Cherry also ordered Bickle to pay $1,436 in restitution to the victims and $20,050 in restitution to State Farm Insurance and ordered Bickle to perform community service to pay the restitution as soon as possible.
According to a previous article in The Progress, a partner publication of The Courier Express, on July 28 at 8:34 a.m. state police and the state police fire marshal responded to a property along Albright Ranch Drive in Decatur Township for a suspected arson that destroyed a shed.
PSP fire marshal Russel Stewart determined the blaze had been intentionally set, according to court documents.
Troopers spoke to the victim who allegedly said there was an ATV inside the shed the night before, but there was no sign of it now. There were also ATV tire marks leading from the shed, according to an affidavit of probable cause.
On Sept. 8, authorities spoke to an inmate at the Clearfield County Jail. The inmate said the night of the fire, he had picked up Bickle at approximately 3 a.m. He said Bickle told him he wanted to steal the ATV, according to the affidavit. The inmate allegedly said he dropped Bickle off behind the property. Bickle then returned with a green four-wheeler, according to the affidavit. The inmate allegedly told Bickle he could hide the ATV near a gas well off of Scribbers Road in Lawrence Township.
The inmate allegedly said Bickle drove the ATV to the location and dropped off the ATV inside the woods.
The inmate said he brought Bickle back to where they originally met along Bucket Line Road. Bickle said he would find his own way back into Clearfield. He said Bickle also allegedly told him he set the shed on fire to get revenge on one of the residents for getting him sent to prison, according to the affidavit.
The inmate said Bickle told him he found a five-gallon can of gasoline in the shed and spread gasoline around the shed and used a dollar bill to light it on fire. He then got on the four-wheeler and left the scene, the affidavit said.
Using the information provided, the ATV was located off of Scribber’s Road in Lawrence Township. It was allegedly parked off a dirt path that led to a gas well.
Bickle was represented at the hearing by Steven Johnston of the Public Defender’s Office, First Assistant District Attorney Leanne Nedza represented the commonwealth.