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DNA, witnesses link Burkhart to L.A. arsons, sources say

January 12, 2012 |  7:51 am

Harry Burkhart

Arson investigations probing more than 50 fires around L.A. have linked DNA evidence found at one of the blazes to suspect Harry Burkhart, according to law enforcement sources.

Additionally, several witnesses have identified Burkhart as being near the scene of several fires, said the sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the case was ongoing.

Burkhart has been charged in connection with 13 of the 51 fires. Prosecutors say he was motivated by his hatred of America after federal officials jailed his mother.

He has not entered a plea.

The first night of fires was concentrated in areas close to where Burkhart and his mother lived, in the Hollywood and West Hollywood areas. Over the next three nights, the arsons spread into the San Fernando Valley and Hollywood Hills.

"He chose places just off the beaten path. He literally looked for the first dark spot," said one law enforcement official, who, like the other sources, spoke on condition of anonymity because the case is ongoing.

The vast majority of the fires were started by what authorities described as a common briquette easily found in stores. The devices are normally used to start fires in a fireplace or grill.

The sources said there is a delay between the time the briquette is lighted and when it burns hot enough to produce flames, allowing an arsonist to leave the scene before the blazes are detected.

Los Angeles Fire Department Capt. Jamie Moore said the arson task force is still gathering evidence and interviewing witnesses but declined to provide specific details about what the team has found.

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-- Richard Winton and Andrew Blankstein

Photo: Harry Burkhart being arrested. Credit: KTLA News.

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