CommunityPam's House Blend

It's nice to get a welcome mat like this rolled out by neighbors

Homes under construction in a housing development burn in this Dec. 6, 2004 file photo, in Indian Head, Md. Three more people, including at least one volunteer firefighter, were arrested Saturday, Dec. 18, 2004, in connection with the largest residential arson in Maryland history, a collection of blazes that caused $10 million in damage to houses in an upscale development. The suspects are white, and many of the families moving into the development are black. (AP Photo/St. Mary’s Today, Terrance Greenhow, File)

I never thought this was about eco-terrorism. That one seemed far-fetched. Now arson because you don’t like people of color — that’s not far-fetched at all. I’m surprised, once the news mentioned that the development was one considered an upper-middle class African-American neighborhood, that a racial motive didn’t become the first thought. Oh well; maybe authorities just don’t want to think that there’s a possibility that some crackers out there just don’t like black people. The other thoughts that came to my mind when the story first broke were a) it’s a fire fighter reject that couldn’t cut it and make it into the dept, or b) some employee that was fired and had an ax to grind. It looks like this case might have all three.

Racial animosity and revenge may have been motives in the fires that caused $10 million in damage in Maryland’s largest residential arson case, a spokesman for federal investigators said Sunday.

Four men have been charged with arson at the Hunters Brooke development, where fires on Dec. 6 destroyed 10 houses and damaged 16 others. No one was hurt; many of the homes were still under construction.

Michael Campbell, a spokesman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said investigators are considering revenge and race, along with several other possible motives.

Two typical motives for arson are revenge and race,” Campbell said. “It’s something investigators are looking at.”

A federal law enforcement official speaking on the condition of anonymity said two of the four suspects in custody allegedly made racial statements to investigators during questioning.

…The official also said that one of the suspects, Jeremy Daniel Parady, was turned down when he tried to get a job with Lennar Corp., the company building the houses south of Washington.

On Saturday, officials arrested Patrick Stephen Walsh, 20, of Fort Washington; Parady, 20, of Accokeek; and Michael McIntosh Everhart, 20, of Waldorf. They were to appear Monday before a U.S. magistrate judge in Greenbelt.

A fourth person, Aaron L. Speed, 21, who worked for a security company hired to guard the development, is being held until a hearing Tuesday. In statements to investigators, Speed said he was upset his employer didn’t show enough sympathy after his infant son died this year.

…Attention then turned to whether the arsons could have been a hate crime. While many of the buyers of the half-million-dollar homes were black, Charles County is largely rural and mostly white.

The scale of the arson – the fires broke out almost simultaneously over a 10-acre site – led investigators to believe that more than one person may have been responsible. Authorities believe the fires were set using an accelerant and a propane torch.

Parady was a “riding member” with the Accokeek Volunteer Fire Department, which meant he could ride with fire crews but not actively engage in firefighting, Fire Department President Wayne Jordan told The Washington Post.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding