Police: Charger exploded after being stolen, torched

Liz Evans Scolforo

Two brothers — one from the York area, the other from Virginia — are accused of torching a 2014 Dodge Charger in a fire that was so hot, the car's vehicle-identification number was burned beyond recognition, according to charging documents.

Robert Dupree Harrison, 36, of 7607 Wildwood Court in Lorton, Virginia, owned the car, Northern York County Regional Police said.

fire logo

He and his brother, 39-year-old Zukael Tony Stephens of 25 Greenwood Road, Apt. B, in West Manchester Township, have not yet been arraigned on first-degree felony charges of arson and conspiracy to commit arson. Police filed charges Jan. 11, according to court records.

The cases remain in warrant status, but defense attorney John Ogden on Thursday said Harrison will turn himself in. Ogden declined further comment on the case.

Reached Thursday evening for comment, Stephens said there was nothing for him to comment about.

"I don't know why they're bringing me in and questioning me about something that has to do with my brother," he said of investigators.

Police said they were called to West Canal Road near the corner of East Berlin Road in Paradise Township about 2 a.m. July 21 and found the charred remains of the Charger. No one was inside, and it didn't appear the car had been involved in a crash, police said.

Investigators determined some sort of accelerant was poured inside the car, deliberately lit on fire and left to burn.

Car exploded: Fumes built up inside and caused an explosion that bent all four car doors outward and blew out the rear window, which landed about 30 feet away, according to charging documents.

After the fire was extinguished, the car's license plate was found by a tow-truck operator who was picking up bits of burned plastic from the road, police said. The plate led police to Harrison.

Harrison told officers he last saw his car when he parked it in Fairfax, Virginia, before going on vacation, documents state.

He told officers that at 1 p.m. July 20 — about 13 hours before the arson — the key fob of his two-way security and remote-start system notified him his car was unlocked, so he had a friend check on the car, which was gone, police said.

He wouldn't give police the name of that friend, and he was "reluctant to give any information on his employment status, stating that he was a diplomatic agent for a royal family," documents state.

Harrison insisted he had both sets of keys to the car and had "no clue" who would have stolen it, according to police.

Phone records: Cellphone records show Harrison was in North Carolina at the time his car was torched, but that he and Stephens were in cellphone contact at that time, charging documents state.

Stephens' cellphone was just a half-mile away from Harrison's car in Fairfax when the car was stolen, and his phone also was near the car in Paradise Township about the time it was set afire, according to police.

Harrison and Stephens are brothers, police said. Stephens' probation officer told investigators that the man's birth name was Stephen Harrison, but that he changed his name, documents state.

Police said they were able to chip away at Harrison's story. He told them he pays his bills on time, but he has numerous civil judgments against him, documents state, and he also owed $24,000 on the Charger.

Too far for alert? Harrison told officers that while on vacation in North Carolina, he was alerted by his key fob that his car was unlocked, but investigators determined his system will only work at distances up to a mile, documents state.

"Harrison was over 290 miles away from his vehicle, making it impossible to get an alert on his key fob that the car was unlocked," Detective Bill Haller, the lead investigator, wrote in charging documents.

Also, a factory key is required to operate the car, and Harrison repeatedly said both sets of keys were still in his possession, police allege.

"Evidence shows that Zukael Stephens' phone was tracked from Virginia, where the car was stolen, to Pennsylvania, where it was lit on fire, and that Stephens was in contact with his brother when the car was stolen and when it was lit on fire," Haller wrote.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.