Arrest made in Auto Mall fires

| 15 Feb 2012 | 10:39

    Wantage — A 22-year-old Vernon man was arrested on Dec. 6 in connection with the fire that destroyed 33 vehicles on Franklin Sussex Auto Mall storage lot off Route 565 on Nov. 14. Phillip Tintle was called in for questioning to the Sussex State Police Barracks, after he was identified as a suspect, according to State Trooper Christopher Kay. He was questioned, then arrested and charged with aggravated arson and criminal mischief and then taken to the Sussex County Jail in lieu of $50,000 bail. The following day, Tintle was arraigned before Superior Court Judge N. Peter Conforti. Police say they don't know of a motive Tintle may have had for starting the fires nor whether the fires were just a random event or whether Tintle specifically targeted the Auto Mall storage lot. The investigation is continuing. Tintle, a 2008 graduate of Vernon High School, had earned a degree in automotive technology in 2010 from Universal Technical Institute of Exton, Pa. The fires were reported at around 2:30 a.m. on Monday, Nov. 14th at the Auto Mall storage lot located on Route 565. The lot did not have any security fencing or video cameras that may have deterred entry. The dealership's main sales lot is located roughly a half mile away at the corner of Route 565 and Route 23 North. When asked if there would be plans in the future to have the lot secured, Claude Jaillet, Franklin Sussex Auto Mall general manager, said the this week that the issue has not been addressed. “It was such a random thing and this is the first time anything like this has happened.” Jalliet said he has been inundated with calls from newspeople and concerned residents and customers. “People have been calling and asking if anyone was hurt in the fire.” He said that he and everyone at the Auto Mall are "deeply touched by everyone’s concern and support." Calls to the Sussex County Prosecutor’s office for further information have not been returned.