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Homeless 'Pro Me Theus' charged in Laurel Canyon blaze [Updated]

May 27, 2009 |  1:56 pm

[Updated at 3:35 p.m.: Theus pleaded not guilty today to the charge of felony arson.]

A homeless man who uses the name Pro Me Theus was charged today with felony arson in connection with a blaze that broke out Memorial Day weekend in Laurel Canyon near Mt. Olympus, prosecutors said.

The 46-year-old suspect was arrested Monday for allegedly starting the May 24 fire, which blackened five acres of brush in the hills above the 2100 block of Laurel Canyon Boulevard but caused no injuries or property damage. He gives his first name as "Pro," his middle name as "Me" and his last name as "Theus," authorities said.

Arson investigators would not say exactly how they believe he started the fire, but if convicted of the single arson count Theus faces up to six years in prison. Prometheus is a figure in Greek mythology known for stealing fire from Zeus. Theus also goes by the name Darby Tennal.

Authorities recovered cash and a credit card bearing the name Pro Me Theus, said Jane Robison of the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.

Theus used shovels to terrace an area of the hillside and built a small wooden deck, police said. He went undetected because his campsite was hidden amid the heavy woods and steep slope, they said.

He was arrested after residents recognized a man who had been in the immediate area of the fire and pointed him out to LAPD officers, who had responded to the scene. Residents positively identified him with the help of a telescope. He was tracked by police helicopter and brandished a shovel for a short time before complying with responding officers.

-- Andrew Blankstein