Frankie Diaz
Frankie Diaz

A convicted York County arsonist will get a free trip to sunny Florida when he's released from state prison.

Frankie Paul Diaz, 23, formerly of East Manchester Township, is wanted in Sarasota County, Fla., for allegedly torching a church, according to documents; he's also suspected of setting a home on fire.

"When we're done with him he'll be going straight to Florida," York County deputy prosecutor Jeff Rigby said. The state of Florida has lodged an arrest detainer against Diaz.

Diaz is accused of using gasoline to start a fire at St. Paul's Presbyterian Church in North Port, Fla., about 4:20 a.m. Dec. 17, 2010, according to investigative documents.

The blaze caused $450,000 in damage to the church's fellowship hall, including significant structural damage. Flames eventually spread to two nearby palm trees, which allowed a passer-by on his way to work to spot the fire and call 911, investigators said.

Diaz fled the state a few days after the fire, documents allege.

Fled to York County: He came to East Manchester Township and moved in with his mother, but the arrangement didn't last long.

Just after 11 p.m. Jan. 4, 2011, Diaz called York County 911 to report smoke at his then-home in the 1800 block of Conewago Creek Road in East Manchester Township, telling a 911 dispatcher it was possibly caused by an electrical problem.

The blaze caused significant damage to the home, Northeastern Regional Police have said.

An arson investigator determined Diaz intentionally set four or five small fires in three separate rooms in the house, including curtains at multiple windows and in his mother's bedroom.

'Punishing' mom: Diaz confessed to setting the house on fire, police said.

"He also attempted to set the Christmas tree on fire, but it would not ignite," court documents state. "He stated that he ... wanted to punish his mother for mistreating him during the course of his life."

Diaz also torched the old Rentzel farmhouse in the first block of Hollyhock Drive in East Manchester Township Sept. 17, 2010. At the time, it was owned by a California-based bank, which had it boarded up and planned to tear it down.

Under questioning by Northeastern Regional Police, Diaz said he set the two fires because he was trying to kill himself, but "chickened out," court documents state.

Diaz later told the court he was being treated for depression and bipolar disorder.

Back in court: Diaz was back in York County Court on Feb. 19 to be resentenced for his two arson cases here, Rigby said.

That's because when he initially was sentenced in January 2012 after pleading guilty, he was given a 2-1/2- to five-year sentence, which the judge ordered be served in county prison. But the sentence was vacated for technical issues, Rigby said.

"In the meantime, Diaz was taken to state hospital for mental-health issues. He was there for some time," Rigby said. "When he returned (to county prison) ... he needed to be resentenced."

On Feb. 19, Common Pleas Judge Michael E. Bortner resentenced Diaz to two to four years in state prison. He's been incarcerated since Jan. 5, 2011, so he's already served his minimum.

"That may have played into Judge Bortner's decision, to potentially expedite his extradition to Florida to answer those charges," Rigby said.

PSP tip: Investigators with the Florida Division of State Fire Marshal began focusing on Diaz for the fire at St. Paul's after a Pennsylvania State Police fire marshal contacted them on Jan. 14, 2011.

Now retired, Trooper Patrick McKenna Jr. told Florida investigators that while interviewing Diaz here in York County, he learned the man allegedly set two fires in North Port, a private home and St. Paul's, documents state.

Florida investigators interviewed a Sarasota County man who'd previously let Diaz live with him. According to that man, Diaz was living on the streets around Christmastime 2010 and was "a mess."

-- Staff writer Liz Evans Scolforo can also be reached at levans@yorkdispatch.com.