MCFRS News Release

Pair of Serial Arsonists Arrested

Months Long Investigation Nets Two Rockville Youths

Investigators from the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service have arrested and charged two Rockville youths, age 17, for their involvement in numerous fires between January and April 2006. Most fires occurred in the Twinbrook Forest neighborhood in the 700 block of Twinbrook Parkway, while several others took place at or near Federal Plaza on Rockville Pike. Additional incidents happened at the Twinbrook Shopping Center on Viers Mill Road, at an industrial park near the Twinbrook Metro, in the Rock Creek Park between Twinbrook Parkway and Aspen Hill Road and at Mid-Pike Plaza near Rockville Pike and Montrose Road.

Montgomery County Fire and Explosive Investigators, working with law enforcement sources, received news that internet postings on ‘MYSPACE.COM” revealed information concerning fires in Rockville, Maryland. Among other things, Investigators determined that specific information about fires in the Twinbrook area were being discussed. Persons of interest were identified based on the month’s long, on-going investigation, as well as via information acquired from the internet particularly after media coverage of one of the fire events.

Search Warrants were obtained and one suspect, age 17, was arrested, charged, taken into custody and detained on Sunday, May 7, 2006. After a court hearing on Monday, May 8, 2006 he is being held at the Noyes Juvenile Detention Center, in Rockville. The second suspect, age 17, was questioned on May 5, 2006, but was initially released into the custody of his mother. On Tuesday, May 9, 2006 he was arrested, charged and taken into custody and is also being held at the Noyes Juvenile Detention Center, in Rockville.

In cooperation with the Rockville City Police Department and the Montgomery County Department of Police, Montgomery County Fire and Explosive Investigators were able to close numerous previously active and open cases in the Twinbrook area. Investigators also received information and assistance from the Maryland-National Capital Park Police – Montgomery County Division. Fire and Explosive Investigators with the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service utilized the resources of the aforementioned law enforcement agencies, including patrol officers, detectives, crime analysts, surveillance teams and computer crime technicians.

Related and known fire events associated with these two juveniles began in January with a burst of activity in February and throughout March. One of the most significant and damaging incidents occurred on April 16, 2006 when several school busses were destroyed by a fire. This fire attracted significant local media coverage.

In all at least nine vehicles were burned, including several passenger vans used by the Montgomery County Community Services for Autistic Adults and Children as well as school busses operated by the French International School; trash fires were set near several residences; public property was damaged that included playground equipment and parkland which had been set on fire; fires were started in a couple of occupied businesses, including the Dollar tree store; and a construction trailer was burglarized and set on fire. Damage could easily exceed $250,000.

Montgomery County Fire Chief Tom Carr says,” The collective work of this team of investigators is to be commended. Not only are the responsible persons being held accountable for their actions, their detention also means the community is safer.” Chief Carr adds “Each year, arson causes millions of dollars in losses to individuals, insurers, and the local government. These losses affect everyone. The worst consequences, however, are not financial, but personal. These fires have affected the entire community. Arson can also be dangerous crime to a victim, to the fire setter, to fire fighters and to the community. ”

Both youths are being charged with two (2) counts of First Degree Arson, four (4) counts of Second Degree Arson, six (6) counts of Malicious Burning – First Degree, five (5) counts of Malicious Burning – Second Degree, two (2) counts of Burning a Trash Container, three (3) counts of Reckless Endangerment.

Incidents occurred between January 2006 and April 2006

Last year in Montgomery County there were about 2000 actual fires (resulting in significant damage) including over 500 structure fires and nearly as many vehicle fires. These numbers are about the same, but slightly more than what occurred in the previous year in 2004. There were about 250 arsons reported in 2005. Dozens of persons, most of whom were juveniles, were arrested by Fire and Explosive Investigators from the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service. The conviction rate for Montgomery County is above the national average for crimes of this nature.

Arson is one the leading causes of property loss due to fire in Montgomery County, Maryland and in the United States. According the United States Fire Administration, over a half-million arson fires, including 100,000 building fires, cost our nation more than $2 billion annually and kill over 700 people. One-fourth of all fires are arson and over one-half of them are set by juveniles. Fire and Explosive Investigators are asking anyone with information about arson to contact the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service ARSON Tip Line at 240-777-2263.

Steps that can be taken to reduce the incidents of arson: