BRIDGETON — The man who orchestrated the 2010 torching of the Loyle Lanes bowling alley is back behind bars after failing to show up on time to be sentenced for the crime.
Steven Smink was supposed to arrive at the Cumberland County courthouse at 8:45 a.m. Friday, but he did not show up until about 2:15 p.m.
Smink’s attorney, Chris Hoffner, provided the court with no reason for his client’s tardiness when Smink eventually appeared before Superior Court Judge Robert Malestein around 3:30 p.m.
Malestein immediately remanded Smink to the Cumberland County jail, something Malestein said he would do when he issued a bench warrant at 12:30 p.m. for Smink’s arrest.
Malestein also revoked Smink’s bail, saying Smink contacted no one, including Hoffner, regarding his absence. Smink was released from the county jail in October 2010 after a bail bondsman put up his $400,000 bail.
Smink is now scheduled to be sentenced at 1:30 p.m. on Friday, and prosecutors said they now feel better about the defendant appearing on time.
“We know now where he is,” Cumberland County First Assistant Prosecutor Harold Shapiro said.
Smink’s eventual appearance ended a frustrating day in court for members of the Loyle family, who lost their bowling alley during the January 2010 fire. Loyle family members waited in the third-floor courtroom for hours for the sentencing, only to have the proceeding postponed.
“We’re disappointed,” Charles Loyle, one of the former bowling alley owners, said when Malestein issued the bench warrant. “We can’t get closure on this after four years. We’ve been patient. We’ll be patient again.”
Had Smink showed up as scheduled on Friday, the Loyle family would have seen him sentenced to 15 years in state prison on charges of arson for hire and conspiracy. The plea agreement with the Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office calls for Smink to serve 85 percent of the 10-year state prison stay on the arson for hire charge.
Shapiro declined comment on whether Smink’s absence would affect that plea agreement.
Had Smink been sentenced, it would not have been the first time he spent time in prison for criminal activity. Smink served time in a federal prison in the mid-1990s after he was caught illegally selling firearms to drug dealers.
Authorities said Smink arranged for the fire at Loyle Lanes in Vineland to eliminate some competition. Smink had bought a bowling alley in Deerfield Township about three years earlier, but struggled with business and fell behind on his taxes in 2009.
When he pleaded guilty in January, Smink admitted to buying the gasoline and kerosene cans, accelerants and drill used in the Loyle Lanes torching. He also admitted buying a cell phone that day to keep in touch with his co-defendants about the arson plan, and said the fire started when flares were dropped onto accelerants that had been poured through holes drilled in the bowling ally’s roof.
Smith was the last of three defendants in the case to plead guilty.
Philadelphia resident Bryan Klein, who was 17 when the fire occurred, pleaded guilty in May 2010 to a charge of conspiracy to commit aggravated arson. He was sentenced the following month to two years in juvenile detention.
Felix Manzano, also of Philadelphia, pleaded guilty in September 2011 to one count of arson for hire.
The plea agreement between Manzano and the Prosecutor’s Office leaves Manzano’s sentence to the discretion of the court. The arson-for-hire charge carries a state prison term of up to 10 years. Manzano remains in the county jail pending his sentence.
Loyle Lanes was never rebuilt.
Members of the Loyle family said in October 2010 that construction costs, along with the price of special bowling lanes, automatic pinsetters, a computer scoring system and everything else needed to reopen “far exceeded our insurance receipts.”
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