Hilltown, PA – An accused rapist who was released from jail to help protect him from COVID-19 launched explosive fireworks at police during a standoff that ended after his home went up in flames.
Curtis Fish, 48, allegedly kidnapped a woman on New Year’s Day and held her captive inside his home, where he proceeded to rape, strangle, and beat her, KYW reported.
The victim, who was beaten so severely that her eyes nearly swelled shut, managed to escape out a window and ran to a neighbor’s home to call 911, according to The Morning Call.
When police found her, she was bleeding from her mouth and told them that Fish had “busted up her face” after strangling her with an electrical wire, KYW reported.
She had bite marks on her hands and bruises on her thighs, and said she had lost consciousness at one point during the attack.
“I was over at Curtis’ and he freaked out on me,” she told investigators, according to court documents. “He held me down and choked me and did everything possible he could do.”
The woman told police that she and Fish were acquaintances, and that he had assaulted her on one other occasion in the past, KYW reported.
When police responded to Fish’s home in the 2000-block of Hilltown Pike, he initially refused to cooperate and barricaded himself inside, police said.
The nine-hour standoff ended the following morning, and Fish was arrested on charges including kidnapping and rape, KYW reported.
His bond was initially set at $850,000.
Fish was later released on bail, but wound up back in jail again in March after he failed to show up for a scheduled court hearing, according to WCAU.
That’s when his attorney, Lou Busico, pushed for the accused rapist to be released in order to protect him from the novel coronavirus.
“One of the factors, one of the arguments, including that the gentleman had no criminal history, Curtis had longstanding ties to Bucks County,” Busico told WCAU. “He was a business owner. His immediate family was here, never convicted nor arrested for a crime on his life, and on top of that you have this COVID-19 situation.”
Busico lamented that Fish “could’ve languished in there for God knows how long,” according to The Morning Call.
Bucks County District Attorney Matthew Weintraub argued that Fish had proven he was too dangerous and violent to be released from jail, regardless of the pandemic, WCAU reported.
In the end, Buck County Common Pleas Judge Raymond McHugh allowed Fish to be released from jail onto electronic monitoring on April 2.
On Tuesday, local tavern owner Mike Mrozonski heard someone banging and making loud noises outside his bar, which was closed at the time, WCAU reported.
He went outside and made contact with Fish, who lived next door to the business.
Mrozonski said that he and Fish used to be friends, and that he has known him for 16 years, WCAU reported.
“He was trying to break the window,” Mrozonski explained. “We exchanged words. He used vulgar language and was very aggressive. I went back inside to get my cell phone and call 911.”
The suspect ran back towards his house when police arrived.
The officer managed to tase him, but Fish was able to make it inside his home, leading to yet another standoff, WCAU reported.
While barricaded inside his home, the suspect launched explosive fireworks at the officers who surrounded his residence.
“The subject was, at one point, throwing explosive devices from the house,” Hilltown Police Chief Christopher Englehart told WFMZ.
The home eventually ignited and went up in flames, WCAU reported.
“Fireworks outside and fireworks inside,” Mrozonski told WPVI. “I believe that’s what lit the house on fire.”
Once the blaze was extinguished, first responders entered the residence and found Fish dead inside, WCAU reported.
An autopsy revealed that Fish died of accidental smoke inhalation, according to The Morning Call.
No officers were injured during the fiery standoff.
“He shouldn’t have been let loose,” Mrozonski told WPVI. “This is what happens. Whatever he was doing at the time he went right back to it.”
Weintraub said that Fish’s final act of violence was the exact reason why he argued against his release.
“We opposed his release uniformly and consistently every step of the way,” the prosecutor said, according to WCAU. “We consider this man to be violent, to be dangerous, and he clearly proved that…We would never agree to release a man like Mr. Fish.”
Although Fish’s defense attorney cited the pandemic as a reason for his release from jail, Buck County prison system spokesperson Larry King said that Fish was not one of the inmates who was approved for early release due to COVID-19, WCAU reported.