Man charged with arson in Downingtown

Michael Norley Jr.
Michael Norley Jr.
Posted: August 28, 2014

A disgruntled 29-year-old former employee has been charged with arson and burglary after being accused of burning his uncles' sign shop in Downingtown last year and spray-painting racist graffiti to throw off suspicion, police said.

Police said Michael Norley Jr., whose last known address was on East Lemon Street in Lititz, Lancaster County, filled plastic Gatorade bottles with gasoline, broke into the store, and set the fires. Norley had previously filed false workers' compensation claims and was upset when they were denied, police said.

He is already in police custody for attacking one of his uncles with a hammer this month, police said. Norley was arrested and charged with attempted homicide. After his arrest, Norley confessed to the arson and graffiti, police said. He will be arraigned on the new charges, and a preliminary hearing will be set, police said.

When first responders arrived at the Pro Signs store at 251 Boot Rd. the night of July 14, 2013, they found numerous fires, including one in a 1947 Studebaker pickup truck that had sentimental value for the store's three owners, Norley's uncles. The fires caused an estimated $375,000 in damage.

On the store's outer walls, someone had spray-painted, "Kill Whitez" and "Kill Zimmerman," referring to George Zimmerman, who had recently been found not guilty in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Florida.

Norley is accused of writing the words so police would think the crime was racially motivated.

"This defendant engaged in extraordinarily reckless behavior," Tom Hogan, Chester County's district attorney, said in a statement. ". . . This defendant was out for destruction and chaos at any cost."


mbond@philly.com

610-313-8207 @MichaelleBond

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