BRIDGETON, N.J. (AP) — The former owner of a bowling alley in southern New Jersey has admitted he orchestrated the arson fire that destroyed a rival alley four years ago.
Steven Smink of Philadelphia pleaded guilty Friday to a charge of arson for hire. The plea came just days before he was due to stand trial on numerous charges stemming from the fire that destroyed Loyle Lanes in Vineland.
Cumberland County prosecutors say Smink faces a 12-year state prison sentence when he’s sentenced March 7, and will have to serve five years of probation once he’s freed. In return, prosecutors will move to dismiss charges of aggravated arson, conspiracy to commit arson and two counts of employing a juvenile in commission of a crime.
Smink, who ran the Pike Lanes Family Fun Center in Deerfield, admitted he bought the gasoline and kerosene cans, accelerants and drill used in the torching of the Vineland facility.
Two other Philadelphia residents accused of starting the fire have both pleaded guilty. One was sentenced to two years in juvenile detention, while the other faces a 10-year state prison term when he’s sentenced later this year.
Smink said the two used a ladder to climb onto the roof of Loyle Lanes on Jan. 11, 2010. After drilling holes through the roof, accelerants were poured into the building and the fire was started when flares were dropped in.
Members of the Loyle family were in the courtroom but declined comment afterward. They later released a statement that said they are “satisfied that the arsonist . will be sentenced to an appropriate prison term and parole term.”
The family initially planned to rebuild after the fire, but decided not to because they lacked the funds needed for the extensive project.
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