On January 5, 2009, the City of Cortland Police Department executed a Superior Court Warrant of Arrest in connection with the fire, which devastated 51-55 Main Street in October 2005. Various local businesses and residential apartments occupied the buildings. The buildings have remained vacant since the fire.
On October 19, 2005, at approximately 6:22 PM, City of Cortland Police responded to the corner of Main Street and Court Street for a reported fire. Upon arrival officers noted both storefronts at 51-55 Main Street were filled with heavy dark smoke, and began clearing pedestrians away from the area. Police Officer Charles M. Niederhofer located an 87-year-old female resident, trapped in her third floor apartment, after he climbed the fire escape. Officer Niederhofer then led her to safety. Members of the Cortland Fire Department assisted with the rescue and checked the building for other victims. The female was treated by TLC Ambulance, and then turned over to family members when they arrived. Cortland Fire Department, with the assistance of fire departments from Cortlandville, Homer, and McGraw, battled the fire for several hours to extinguish the flames.
A joint investigation into the cause of the fire was conducted by the City of Cortland Police Department, Cortland Fire Department, New York State Office of Fire Prevention and Control, as well several private fire investigators acting on behalf of the insurance carriers. The investigation was extensive, including a physical examination of the scene and numerous interviews. The investigation resulted in a determination the fire was the result of intentional human action and classified it as arson.
On December 29, 2008, City of Cortland Police received a Superior Court Warrant of Arrest for Andrea M. Stevens, after the case was presented to a Cortland County Grand Jury, who handed down an indictment for Arson in the Third Degree, a Class C Felony. Stevens, 37 years of age, had been the proprietor of Smooches, a gift store, which was located at 51 Main Street at the time of the fire.
Stevens, who resides at 2458 East River Road, Cortland, was arraigned in Cortland County Court before Judge Julie Campbell, who remanded Stevens to the Cortland County Jail on $1,000 cash bail. Stevens is due to re-appear in Cortland County Court on January 23, 2009 at 2:15 PM.