Serial arson suspect faces 100 counts related to 49 fires
When Harry Burkhart, the suspect in a string of serial arsons, appears in court Tuesday afternoon, he will be facing 100 counts related to 49 fires set during a four-day fire spree that left the Los Angeles area on edge.
Los Angeles police and fire investigators said the 24-year-old German national was motivated by his hatred of America after federal officials jailed his mother, who was facing deportation.
The fires Burkhart is believed to have set occurred mostly in the Hollywood area, but also on the Westside and in the San Fernando Valley. Many of the blazes were in carports and driveways, and spread to apartment buildings and homes.
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 arson incidents spread into the Hollywood Hills and San Fernando Valley.
Los Angeles police said they have physical evidence tying Burkhart to the arson spree, including fire-starting materials found inside his minivan when he was arrested.
The vast majority of the fires were started by what authorities described as a common wood-like fire-starting device found in stores. The devices are normally used to start fires in a fireplace or grill, according to sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the case was ongoing.
Prosecutors and investigators say they have connected him to the crimes by physical evidence including DNA. They also have a photo of a device that he dumped when he entered the German consulate in the middle of the spree.
Also, several witnesses have identified Burkhart as being near the scene of several fires, said the sources.
Federal immigration officials said they believed Burkhart was in the United States on a visa due to expire in two weeks. Dorothee Burkhart, the mother of Harry Burkhart, told a federal judge earlier this month that her son is mentally ill.