Allegedly ‘tired of crackheads,’ man faces trial for murder in Kensington fire

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Khalil Pugh’s girlfriend said he hated the abandoned house across from their Kensington rowhouse, hated the squatters and crackheads who lived there and hung around outside, and vowed to do something about it.

So on Aug. 7, police allege, Pugh set the house at 1866 E. Clementine St. ablaze, figuring the city would board up the property.

But he forgot to make sure no one was inside, and on Wednesday that oversight led a judge to order Pugh to stand trial for murder in the death of 28-year-old Garry Schmeltzer Jr.

Assistant District Attorney Deborah Watson-Stokes told Municipal Court Judge David C. Shuter that Schmeltzer, whose last known address was in Bensalem, Bucks County, died of smoke inhalation, his body found on the floor underneath a second-story window from which another man leaped to the ground.

Watson-Stokes’ only witness was Kathleen Frost, 29, who described Pugh, 28, as “a good friend” who had moved in with her and her four children five months before the fire.

Frost at first testified that she wasn’t at home at the time of the 10:40 p.m. blaze, but then confirmed her Aug. 14 statement to homicide detectives.

Questioned by Watson-Stokes, Frost said she told detectives that Pugh entered the house, “grabbed the lighter fluid, and said he was going across the street. He was just mad because he was tired of the crackheads living there.”

“He said he was going to light the house on fire,” Frost’s statement read.

Frost testified Wednesday that Pugh returned to her home and she noticed that the blinds across the street were on fire. She said Pugh went back and led an elderly blind woman out of the rowhouse adjacent to the one on fire.

Frost said she then saw neighbor Derrick “Old G” Alexander jump from a second-floor window of the burning house.

Questioned by defense attorney James A. Lammendola, Frost again tried to take back her statement, saying she gave the statement only because detectives “threatened me with my kids” and with charging her with conspiracy.

After the preliminary hearing, Shuter ordered Pugh held for trial on charges of murder, arson, causing a catastrophe, reckless endangerment, and a weapons count for the lighter fluid.

Pugh, who is being held without bail, was escorted from court blowing kisses to family and friends in the gallery.

Court records show that Pugh has been arrested seven times dating to 2007 and convicted four times on charges ranging from harassment and criminal mischief to burglary and drug-dealing.

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