- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 23, 2004

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Federal authorities have arrested the ringleader and the “core defendants” of a plot to burn down an upscale housing development in Charles County, Md., a federal prosecutor said yesterday.

Prosecutor Donna Sanger described suspect Patrick Stephen Walsh — an employee at a nearby amusement park with a background in pyrotechnics — as the leader of a loosely organized group of young men who referred to themselves as “the family” and who set the fires in order to make a statement.

A federal magistrate ordered Mr. Walsh, 20, held without bail at a hearing in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt yesterday.

In a separate hearing, another defendant — Roy Theodore McCann Jr., 22, of Waldorf — was released on bail yesterday. McCann is the only arson suspect to be released.

McCann had a court appearance the day after the fires were set, during which he was found guilty and given probation on a charge of malicious destruction of property for an incident that occurred in July.

Mr. Walsh and McCann are two of six Charles County men charged with the Dec. 6 fires that destroyed 10 unoccupied houses and damaged 16 others at the Hunters Brooke community, an upscale development under construction in Indian Head.

Investigators called it the largest residential arson in Maryland history. The arson attack caused $10 million worth of damage.

William Purpura, Mr. Walsh’s attorney, said his client worked a summer job at Six Flags Amusement Park, but denied that Mr. Walsh has expertise in pyrotechnics.

“He has absolutely no expertise in pyrotechnics,” Mr. Purpura said.

The suspects were members of a group called the Unseen Cavaliers, also known as “the family,” prosecutors have said.

Previous court records have attributed various motives for the fires, including a quest for notoriety, revenge and race.

At Mr. Walsh’s detention hearing yesterday, Miss Sanger described him as the “instigator” of the plot to set the fires. She said it was well-planned and organized, and designed to cause as much damage to the Hunters Brooke development as possible.

“He had this fascination with fire, and he focused on the Hunters Brooke development as the place where he wanted to make this statement,” Miss Sanger told the court.

“He is the one who settled on the means. He is the one who settled on the means, the method and the target,” the federal prosecutor said.

After the hearing, Mr. Purpura said there was no such thing as “the family.” He said Mr. Walsh was part of a group of friends with a mutual interest in cars.

In court, Mr. Purpura said Mr. Walsh belongs to a family with strong links to the community. His parents have been married for 31 years and live in a home they built in 1983, he said.

Mr. Walsh is a 20-year-old with no criminal record and only two traffic violations on his record, Mr. Purpura argued.

Others accused in the arson case are:

• Aaron L. Speed, 21, of Waldorf.

• Michael “White Mike” Gilbert, 21, of Fort Washington.

• Michael McIntosh Everhart, 20, of Waldorf.

• Jeremy Daniel Parady, 20, of Accokeek.

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