Maryland Subdivision Arson Investigation Nets Others

Besides arrest of on-site guard, arrests also net three others, including a firefighter


GREENBELT, Md. (AP) - The fires that caused an estimated $10 million damage at an upscale housing development in a Washington suburb were set by unidentified ``acquaintances'' in addition to the four men already charged in the case, according to court documents filed Monday.

The documents also allege details of the setting of the fires, describing two vehicles and a number of flammable materials

Two possible motives, race and revenge, are among the theories that have emerged during questioning of the four men in custody, an official has said.

The Dec. 6 fires at a housing development under construction destroyed at least 10 houses and damaged 16 others. No one was injured.

Patrick Walsh, 20, of Fort Washington; Jeremy Parady, 20, of Accokeek; and Michael Everhart, 20, of Waldorf were to appear before a U.S. magistrate judge in Greenbelt on Monday afternoon. The fourth suspect, Aaron Speed, 21, was arrested separately last week and was to appear in court Tuesday. Speed was a security guard at the development and Parady was a volunteer firefighter in nearby Accokeek.

The affidavits allege that Parady, Walsh and Everhart, all arrested Saturday on arson charges, initially denied their involvement in separate interrogations but changed their stories after they were confronted with evidence.

All three told investigators that additional ``acquaintances'' were involved. There was no word from authorities on additional arrests.

Parady allegedly told investigators his job was to be ``the wheels'' of the operation, according to the affidavit.

Dogs had found evidence of accelerants in two cars that belong to Walsh, the documents state. Walsh allegedly said ``then I guess you got me'' when investigators asked him what would happen if accelerant-sniffing dogs ``hit'' on the cars.

Everhart said he knew in advance of the plot and was at the scene but left before any homes were torched.

According to the affidavits, the four men and others met outside a nearby restaurant and drove to the development in two cars, at least one of which was owned by Walsh. Among other things, the affidavits said, they had matches, road flares, butane torches and four loaded gas cans.

They kicked in the doors of the houses, poured a pool of accelerant inside and ignited a trail from the pools to the doors, authorities said. Lab tests detected traces of two flammable liquids -- toluene and methyl isobutyl ketone, both solvents with a number of industrial uses -- on debris.

A federal law enforcement official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Sunday that two of the men allegedly made racial statements. The suspects are white, and many of the families moving into the homes are black.

However, Michael Campbell, a spokesman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said several other factors also were under consideration.

The official who spoke on condition of anonymity said Parady tried unsuccessfully to get a job with Lennar Corp., the company building the houses. Speed allegedly told investigators he was angry with his employer, Security Services of America, because it did not show enough sympathy after his infant son died this year.

Initially, there was speculation the fires were set by environmental extremists because some critics had complained the houses threatened a nearby bog. But no evidence has been found to support that theory, police said.