TESTIMONY: Ephrata man charged with arson claims basement “demons” set his house on fire

Joshua Witman

An Ephrata Township man, whose testified that demons and aliens were responsible for burning down his family’s home, will spend up to 20 years in prison.

Judge Donald Totaro on Monday sentenced Joshua A. Witman, 34, to 5 to 20 years in state prison for setting fire to the house at 209 East Mohler Church Road on June 15, 2014, according to the Lancaster County District Attorney’s office.

Witman lived at the home with his mother. He was also was ordered to pay $91,000 in restitution for costs to rebuild the home.

Witman told police at the time there were aliens living in walls of the home and a portal for demons in the basement, where he ignited a box of chopped firewood with a lighter and transmission fluid, according to testimony.

First Assistant District Attorney Christopher Larsen said Witman endangered the lives of every firefighter who worked to extinguish the blaze.

Witman has a history of heroin abuse and a criminal record that dates to 1999, Larsen said. He was seen riding a bicycle away from the home, minutes before neighbors saw smoke billowing from it.

Totaro convicted Witman of a felony arson charge after a one-day, non-jury trial.

The fire seriously damaged the home’s basement and first floor. It also killed a cat.

Witman had lived in the home for 25 years. His mother wasn’t home at the time of the fire.