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Guard Held in Connection With $10 Million Arson

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  • Guard Held in Connection With $10 Million Arson

    Updated: 10:27 PM EST
    Guard Held in Connection With $10 Million Arson
    No Evidence Found to Support Initial 'Eco-Terrorism' Suspicions

    BALTIMORE (Dec. 15) -- A security guard at an upscale housing development was arrested Thursday on arson charges in a series of fires that did $10 million in damage to homes being built at the subdivision, prosecutors said.

    Aftermath of the Maryland arson scene

    Aaron L. Speed, 21, will appear Friday in federal court, the U.S. attorney's office said in a statement.

    The motive was not immediately known and a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office said she did not know how many arson charges Speed faced.

    Speed is an employee of Security Services of America, a company hired to guard the development 35 miles south of the nation's capital.

    No one was hurt in the Dec. 6 fires, but a total of 26 houses were damaged, 10 of them severely, in what authorities described as the largest residential arson case in Maryland history.

    Because of the size of the 10-acre crime scene, authorities believe at least two people are responsible for the arsons. No information was available Thursday on additional suspects.

    Investigators also said there was evidence that the arsonists tried to set 10 more blazes at the subdivision.

    Early speculation was that the fires were set by environmentalists who believed the houses were a threat to a nearby bog. But no evidence has been found to support that theory, police said.

    Linda Auwers, general counsel for the parent company of Security Services of America, said authorities asked the company not to comment. ''We are fully cooperating with the authorities in their investigation of this matter,'' she said.

    Authorities searched the home of Speed's parents on Wednesday night and towed a car away, said David Jaillet, whose stepdaughter is married to the security guard. No one answered the door Thursday night at the house. A homemade ''No Trespassing'' sign was taped to the storm door of the ranch-style home.

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    Speed had suffered through several difficult family situations, including the death of a baby son this year and his own placement about 18 months ago in a foster home by an organization specializing in mental health treatment.

    Jaillet said his stepdaughter and Speed married about a year ago and had twin boys earlier this year, but one of the boys died of intestinal complications.

    Speed is a ''decent person,'' Jaillet said. Asked if he thought Speed was involved in the fires, Jaillet said: ''No, I don't think he is; it's not in his character.''

    Jaillet said Speed had worked as a security guard for about a year and was a supervisor at the Hunters Brooke site.

    The Washington Post reported last week that Speed had told the newspaper that he saw a blue van at the Hunters Brooke development the morning of the fires. He said he was visiting the guard on duty at the time. Speed told the paper that he could only see a driver and wasn't sure whether anyone else was in the van.

    ''It basically looked like they were trying to watch,'' he told the newspaper, referring to the van. ''I saw it lingering around. ... It kept passing by the construction site entrance.''

    Firefighters had reported seeing the van leave the scene, the sheriff's office has said.

    AP-NY-12-16-04 21:40 EST
    I dont suffer from insanity, I enjoy every minute of it.

  • #2
    It gets worse...

    Security Guard Arrested in Connection with $10M Maryland Arsons
    Suspect Had Done Ride-Along with Local Fire Department in Recent Months

    Reprinted with permission from washingtonpost.com and The Washington Post

    A security guard for a company hired to protect construction sites at a Charles County subdivision was arrested yesterday and charged with setting fires last week that destroyed 10 unoccupied houses at the development and damaged 16 others.

    Aaron L. Speed, 21, was taken into custody by federal agents in Charles County yesterday while undergoing a polygraph test, several law enforcement sources said. Speed, who spent time at the subdivision as a guard for Security Services of America, is scheduled to appear this morning before a magistrate judge at U.S. District Court in Greenbelt to face a charge of arson.

    The law enforcement sources, speaking on condition of anonymity because the investigation is continuing, said Speed made self-incriminating statements during the polygraph test, prompting authorities to arrest him. They said more arrests are possible.

    Speed's arrest followed 10 days of investigation into early-morning fires Dec. 6 that devastated part of the Hunters Brooke subdivision near Indian Head, causing an estimated $10 million in damage. State officials have called the crime the biggest case of residential arson in memory in Maryland.

    After initially considering eco-terrorism and racism as possible motives for the arsons, investigators moved away from those theories this week. They declined to say yesterday what might have prompted the arsons.

    The law enforcement sources and people familiar with Speed described him as a young man in a downward emotional spiral after a family tragedy last spring.

    Speed's attorney, William M. Burgess, was consulting with Speed at the Charles County jail last night and was not available to comment on the case, Burgess's wife said.

    Speed's mother-in-law, Dolores Jaillet, said in an interview that federal agents who questioned Speed's wife focused much of their attention on the death in April of the couple's 10-week-old son, a twin who succumbed to an illness.

    "They were trying to say it was because Aaron was stressed out," Jaillet said, adding that she does not believe he was involved in the arsons. "I can tell you, he's a nice kid," she said.

    Speed and his wife, Tamara, live in a small house on Copley Avenue in Waldorf with the surviving twin and her two children from a previous relationship.

    According to one law enforcement source, Speed developed hard feelings toward his employer because he did not think the security company was supportive of him after his child died.

    A Security Services of America official did not return messages this week seeking a comment on the case, including one left last night.

    Speed quit Security Services and took a job in a 7-Eleven, but eventually returned to the company because the pay was better, the source said.

    About two months ago, Speed went on a ride-along to a house fire in Prince George's County with the Clinton Volunteer Fire Department, according to Robert Small, the volunteer unit's chief. He said Speed inquired about joining the department and spent a day with the volunteers, responding to a fire in the Crestview Manor neighborhood of Clinton.

    He did not go back. "I guess whatever we did didn't suit him," Small said. "He was in and out in a day and was never seen again."

    Faith Kern, a former teacher who does therapeutic foster care, said Speed lived at her home for about six months when he was 19, until he finished high school in June 2003. She said Speed was referred to her by Alternatives for Youth and Families, an outpatient mental health clinic for people ages 5 to 22. Kerns said Speed had a troubled life as a youngster, but she declined to elaborate, citing confidentiality rules.

    Kern said Speed visited her in February. "He brought the [twins] to see me," Kern said. The boys were a month old at the time and "were beautiful," she said. "He seemed to be a good daddy and a very proud dad. I thought he was making it. I was really proud of him."

    Two months later, one of the twins died. Kern said that she saw Speed again at Thanksgiving and that he made some odd statements. "He said he was with the Marines in Fallujah and had really been disturbed with what he had seen," Kern said. "That might not have been true."

    Even before the arrest, there were indications that Speed had become a focus of the investigation. Wednesday night, federal authorities searched Speed's home, and his mother-in-law said agents also seized his car, searched it and then returned it.

    "They tested his work pants and they returned those, too," Jaillet said.

    One of Speed's neighbors, Stephanie Carpenter, 14, said she saw agents remove a large container from a shed in his back yard. Carter said an agent moved the container across the street and used gloves to take off the top. "He looked inside and jiggled it a little bit and said, 'It's liquid,' " Stephanie recalled.

    It was unclear yesterday what was in the container. Sources said this week that two types of flammable cleaning solvent were used to start the fires.

    Carpenter's grandmother, Sharon Woelfl, 53, said Speed doted on his surviving son, once bringing a playpen onto the lawn so he could keep an eye on the child while he washed his car. "He seemed to have calmed down from his teenage years," said Woelfl, who has known him for several years. "He seemed more responsible."

    Another neighbor, John C. Heizmann, said the arrest surprised him. "I seriously would doubt he would do this," Heizmann said of Speed. "He wanted to be a police officer."

    Developers plan to build 319 homes at Hunters Brooke, which has been the focus of dispute between environmentalists and regulators who approved the subdivision. Many of the people who have settled there, or plan to, are African American. For those reasons, investigators initially considered theories of eco-terrorism and racism.

    Besides destroying or damaging 26 unoccupied houses, whoever set the fires tried to ignite 10 other empty houses, which did not burn, authorities said.

    The fires broke out shortly before 5 a.m. Dec. 6. The next day, in an interview with The Washington Post, Speed said he arrived at the subdivision at 3:30 a.m. to check on a guard who was on duty there. Speed said the guard told him after the fires that he had left his post at 4:30 a.m., about 30 minutes before the end of his shift and before the fires started.

    Speed spoke as if he had supervisory authority at the company, saying the guard who supposedly had left early was "at risk for being a suspect in this case right now."

    "At this point," Speed said, "we are still deciding on what type of a disciplinary action we are going to take on him."


    Prince George's County with the Clinton Volunteer Fire Department - isn't that where Tillerman is/was from? (and no, I'm not implying anything at all, just an honest question)
    "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?


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