- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Authorities yesterday released their most detailed information to date about the serial arsonist who has been targeting the Washington area for nearly a year, after revealing he hit two more suburban counties this month.

Members of the Arson Task Force said apartment fires this month in Fairfax County and Montgomery County are considered similar to 34 other cases dating to March 2003. The previous fires had been in the District, Prince George’s County and Alexandria.

Investigators think the arsonist hit an apartment building on Richmond Highway in Fairfax on Feb. 6. No one was hurt.

That was followed by a Feb. 14 fire on Blair Road in Silver Spring. Three members of one family were injured, and firefighters had to rescue about 10 people from the burning building.

Investigators found evidence at the two scenes indicating that the fires are related to the other suspicious blazes.

“The time of day, the location of the fire and the materials used are all similar in these cases,” said Prince George’s County Fire Chief Ronald D. Blackwell.

The task force also conclusively linked two more of the fires, bringing that total to 15. The latest additions are an Oct. 8 blaze in Northeast and a Jan. 22 fire in Bladensburg.

The fires began March 5 in Southeast and since have hit two more of the city’s four quadrants. The arsonist moved to Prince George’s County on April 1, when an Oxon Hill home was targeted, and into Alexandria on Nov. 16.

One fire has been deadly. A Northeast Washington blaze on June 5 — one of two that day — killed Lou Edna Jones, 86. Ten persons have been injured.

Also yesterday, the task force released a new sketch of the suspect by Lois Gibson, a renowned sketch artist from the Houston Police Department. It was based on the description of a witness at an attempted arson in Northeast on Sept. 14.

“We’re very excited about the sketch that has been produced,” said Mark Brady, a spokesman for the Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department.

Investigators also released new details of a psychological profile. They think the arsonist has a “chameleon personality,” appearing charming and genuine at times, but angry and uncaring at others. The arsonist also likely blames others for his problems, can be manipulative and probably has been in trouble previously with the law, the task force said.

“I would hope that with the release of this information perhaps the arsonist would contact us,” said Chief Blackwell. “We are very much interested in speaking with him. We think we can be helpful to him.”

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