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PX hearing in arson case set for today

American Samoa District Court building

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Peni Toso is scheduled to have his preliminary examination (PX) hearing in the District Court today.

Toso is held on bail of $30,000 on one count of arson over allegations that he set a home on fire in Petesa.

The arson charge is a class B felony, and carries a jail term between five to 15 years.

According to the government’s case, on Feb. 10, 2023 police received a call for assistance after a family home was set on fire in Petesa.

Upon arriving on scene, officers saw the building engulfed in flames.

“As we were securing the scene and waiting for fire fighters to arrive, onlookers from around the area, including … Tupuivao Ioelu — who owns the house, were yelling out to us that a man named Peni had set the house on fire.

“They … told us that the man had lived there with his wife, Pusi Toso, and had another residence on the east side of the island, at Pagai.”

Witnesses told police while they were sleeping inside the house, the defendant woke them up to clear out saying “that he is going to burn down the house.”

According to one of the witnesses, when the suspect was in their room, the witness could smell a reek of alcohol odor, as the suspect was demanding them to exit the house immediately.

“At first, the witness thought that the suspect wasn’t serious, and he was just acting drunk and the witness went back to sleep. Several minutes later he could smell something burning and immediately felt the heat temperature rising. 

“As he came out of his room, he was then startled to see that his uncle’s room was in flames.”

The day after the incident police headed to Pagai where the defendant resides and found him.

The criminal complaint states that the defendant confessed that he set the house on fire.

“In his confession, he stated that he got into a verbal altercation with the pastor who owned the house. In a rage after the altercation, he went back to the house and doused his room with gasoline and ignited the fire.

“He then took a back road that led to Fagaima and sat under the pulu tree near the Wayland University building.

“He was able to call a family member from Pagai who had come to pick him up and take him.”