Arson suspect Harry Burkhart charged in L.A.-area fires
Harry Burkhart was charged Wednesday with setting a series of fires across the Los Angeles area.
“After reviewing the available evidence, we filed 28 counts of arson of property and nine counts of arson of an inhabited structure,” Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley said in a statement. “The complaint also alleges that the arson was caused by use of a device designed to accelerate the fire. If found true, the allegation could mean additional custody time for the defendant."
It was not immediately clear which fires he was charged with but officials said the criminal counts involve 13 fires.
Hours before the charges were filed, prosecutors in Germany said Burkhart was suspected of torching a home owned by his family six days before he arrived in the United States.
Burkhart's family later filed an insurance claim for the blaze, the German prosecutors said.
Federal immigration officials said they believed Burkhart was in the United States on a visa due to expire in two weeks.
But authorities could not find a visa file for his mother, Dorothee, with whom Burkhart lived and often traveled.
It was unclear how Dorothee Burkhart gained entry into the United States, said Victoria Nuland, a spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department.
A court document indicates that Dorothee Burkhart was in Frankfurt as recently as October before flying to Las Vegas and accompanying her son to the German consulate in Los Angeles to renew his passport.
But immigration officials said Tuesday the court document is incorrect and that the last time she entered the country was in 2007.
Los Angeles police say they found fire-starting material in his minivan when he was arrested Monday.
-- Efrem Gebreab in Germany, and Richard Winton and Carol J. Williams in Los Angeles
Photo: Harry Burkhart being arrested Monday.
Credit: KTLA-TV Channel 5