AKRON, Ohio — A co-owner of Pavona's Pizza Joint and Mickey's Irish Pub, which burned to the ground last October, appeared in Akron Municipal Court on Tuesday charged with arson.
Mark Mickey, 56, pleaded not guilty to the fourth-degree felony arson charge at his arraignment Tuesday afternoon. He had no comment.
Mickey is accused of intentionally setting an a fire at Pavona’s Pizza Joint on Sand Run Road on Oct. 7, 2022, according to an Akron Police report.
Investigators believe Mickey put firefighters in danger when he allegedly started the fire.
"Our firefighters, they understand there's some element of risk on every aspect of our job. For a case like this, it wears on the mind," said Akron Fire Captain Sierjie Lash.
The fire broke out in the morning, destroying the pizza shop and Mickey’s Irish Pub next door, also owned by his wife, Courtney Pavona. Over 2.5 million gallons of water were used to knock down the flames, Akron officials said.
Fire investigators said at the time that the fire appeared to have started in the basement and spread up to the roof. It took more than five hours to get the blaze under control.
An Akron Police report released to News 5 this week states that Mickey "places himself in the exact area of origin and is seen on camera leaving approximately six minutes before smoke is seen from the Sand Run Pharmacy security camera system."
Akron Fire investigators and private fire insurance investigators agreed that the fire was an incendiary fire that started under the staircase on the kitchen side of the restaurant, the police report states. The electrical panels in that room had fire patterns and damage consistent with a fire moving from an origin point under the staircase across the panels.
“The panels have been inspected and have been determined to not be the cause of the fire,” the report states. “There is no other competent ignition source, and no explainable plausible way for the fire to have occurred in that location under the stairs other than by human hand.”
The report also claims that Mickey lied to fire investigators about not having a motion alarm system and about having a monitored smoke detection system.
Through warrants, investigators discovered that Mark had sent a text to his friend on the morning of the fire asking how much it would be to rent a bedroom. Police said after speaking with the friend, they learned the context of that text was that Mickey and Pavona were getting a divorce, and Mickey needed a place to stay.
Days after the fire, Mickey and Pavona spoke to News 5 for a story about the destroyed business, appearing to fight back tears and trying to comprehend how the fire happened.
RELATED: 'I want to rebuild': Pizza shop owners devastated after fire in Akron
"Our whole family put a lot into this place, our whole family, the kids, me and her put our hearts and souls into this place," Mickey said about the business, which had been open since 2016.
A GoFundMe page was established and over $8,000 was raised to assist the 17 employees who found themselves without a job because of the fire. The organizer has disabled new donations.
In January, three months after the fire, Mickey and Pavona discussed a soft opening for a a new location at the former “Craft Social” location on Front Street in Cuyahoga Falls.
Mickey said they planned for a grand opening for the new location on St. Patrick’s Day. It's not clear if that will still happen.
RELATED: Pavona's Pizza Joint opening in new location 3 months after massive fire
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