Friday June 24, 2011

GREAT BARRINGTON -- A town resident with a history of mental health issues has been charged in connection with the aborted downtown arson spree that occured early Wednesday morning.

David A. Pixley, 62, of Hollenbeck Avenue, was arraigned in Southern Berkshire District Court on Thursday afternoon on 10 counts related to the Main Street arsons and attempted arsons that occured the night before.

He was arrested early Thursday morning after being spotted by Officer Victor J. Zucco carrying a tire and a plastic container filled with an unknown accelerant. Pixley's attire also matched that of the person caught on surveillance tapes igniting a fire at Barrington Outfitters on Wednesday, according to the police report.

Zucco saw Pixley in the TD Bank parking lot at around 2 a.m., according to court documents. After attempting to hide in bushes behind the drive-thru, Pixley ran, leaving the tire and container behind. Officers, including K-9 units tracking Pixley's scent, eventually encountered and detained Pixley at his Hollenbeck Avenue apartment.

"We put extra patrols out there and it paid off," said Great Barrington Police Chief William Walsh. "There is no question that Officer Zucco saved the town from having even more fires set. The community can rest easy now."

Pixley's son, David Pixley Jr., said his father suffers from bipolar disorder. Pixley Jr., a local attorney, was at the arraignment but declined to comment further. He is not representing his father.

Pixley has been charged with burning a building; arson of a house; five counts of attempt to burn a building; and three counts of attempt to burn a motor vehicle.

The Lee Bank building and Barrington Outfitters buildings were set ablaze early Wednesday morning, police said. A surveillance video shows a man, whom police believe to be Pixley, igniting a tire and wooden plank against the second floor fire escape at the Barrington Outfitters property.

An extensive search of the downtown corridor revealed materials at several other locations -- Gypsy Joint, Toole Agency Insurance Co., Kwik Print, the Foster Hardware building and the Tune Street building -- that had been targeted for burning.

The tires of three vehicles had also been doused with ignitable fluids.

A collection of used tires were later found in of common areas in Pixley's apartment building.

Pixley is being held at the Berkshire County Jail & House of Correction and is due back in court for a dangerousness hearing on Monday that could result in him being ineligible for bail.

Meanwhile, fire damage cleanup continued on Thursday, as crews removed damaged debris from Barrington Outfitters rear showroom.

Debbie Drucker, sister to the store's owners, and Hillary Drucker, husband of owner Richard Drucker, were in a rear parking lot going through large amounts of furniture ruined by smoke and water damage.

"It's very, very sad," said Debbie Drucker. "Clearly someone wanted to light the whole town on fire."

Though the Druckers said its too soon to assess the damage, police reports estimate it at $250,000.

Hillary and Debbie Druckers said it could have been worse, and it's fortunate no one was hurt. Both viewed the surveillance video of the arson on Wednesday, and Hillary said it was difficult to watch.

"I couldn't sleep last night," said Heather. "It was terrifying."

To reach Trevor Jones:
tjones@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 528-3660.