Owner of store where 2 firefighters died pleads guilty

Posted: July 16, 2014

RICHARD KNELLINGER, the furniture-store owner arrested in the aftermath of the 2012 warehouse fire that killed two Philadelphia firefighters, pleaded guilty to two counts of false swearing yesterday.

Knellinger, whose age in court records is given as both 37 and 42, was sentenced to two years of probation by Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey Minehart.

He must report to a probation officer in the first year of his sentence but does not have to report in the second year, according to the terms of the plea deal that was negotiated with the District Attorney's Office.

Knellinger, who owned Giamari Furniture & Bedding in Kensington, was arrested in October 2012 for lying to the grand-jury investigating the fire that killed two firefighters on April 9 of that year.

Lt. Robert Neary, 60, and firefighter Daniel Sweeney, 25, both of Ladder 10, died in the furniture store when the five-story wall of an adjacent and abandoned warehouse on York Street near Kensington Avenue collapsed onto the store.

While testifying before the grand jury, Knellinger denied a prior meeting with the owners of the warehouse, father and son Nahman and Michael Lichtenstein of Brooklyn, N.Y., and denied having been at the scene of the fire, the District Attorney's Office said.

He also lied about knowing one of his own drivers, Jeremiah "Jay" Fishburn, according to a search warrant reviewed by the Daily News.

The five-alarm blaze destroyed the abandoned 19th-century Thomas W. Buck Hosiery building. The Lichtensteins had plans to convert the building into apartments, but instead the property fell prey to squatters and neglect.

In February, a grand jury declined to bring criminal charges against the Lichtensteins, who are the subjects of a civil suit brought by the families of the fallen firefighters.

On Twitter: @MensahDean

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