- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 4, 2005

Federal investigators found a propane torch and a map of the Hunters Brooke housing development in the home of one of the men accused of setting fire to the Charles County, Md., neighborhood last month, according to federal court documents made public yesterday.

Inventories from search warrants executed in late December show that authorities removed computers, floor mats, note pads and documents from the homes and vehicles of some of the six men charged with arson.

During a search of the Waldorf home of Aaron Lee Speed on Dec. 15, the FBI removed a BernzOmatic propane torch, a 5-gallon bucket used for a sheetrock joint compound, a map of home sites at Hunters Brooke and a notebook titled “Safety Course for Firing Site Laboratory Personnel.”

Mr. Speed, 21, worked as a security guard at the Indian Head development. According to federal affidavits, he told authorities during a Dec. 10 interview that the fires hypothetically could be set by pouring accelerant on the houses and lighting it with a “hand-held propane torch.”

Mr. Speed’s attorney, federal public defender John Chamble, would not comment on the search warrants.

Two law-enforcement sources, speaking on that condition of anonymity, said investigators also found a copy of “The Anarchist Cookbook,” which includes instructions on setting fires, at the Fort Washington home of the suspected ringleader, Patrick S. Walsh, 20.

The results of that search were not among the documents released yesterday by the U.S. District Court in Greenbelt.

“It’s a cookbook on how to make bombs and set fires,” said one source, who added that it is not unusual for investigators to find the book during criminal investigations. “But it’s not illegal to own it.”

Mr. Walsh’s attorney, William Purpura, said the search warrant does not specifically say the book was found.

“There is nothing in there which indicates affiliation with any anarchist groups,” he said.

Investigators removed carpeting and floor mats from Mr. Speed’s Chevrolet Blazer and a 3-foot-wide section of the front seat cushion of a Chevrolet Lumina van owned by the parents of suspect Michael M. Everhart, 20.

At the home of Michael E. Gilbert, 21, they found a photo of two suspects wearing women’s clothes.

Mr. Everhart, Mr. Walsh and Mr. Speed, along with Roy T. McCann Jr., 22, and Jeremy Daniel Parady, 20, have been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of arson, conspiracy to commit arson and aiding and abetting the arsons. Mr. Gilbert has been charged with arson but was not indicted. He has a detention hearing scheduled for next week.

None of the representatives of federal, state and county law-enforcement agencies who gathered at the federal courthouse in Greenbelt on Monday to announce the indictments offered any insight into a motive.

Authorities think the men set fire to unoccupied homes in the development on Dec. 6, causing $10 million in damage to 26 houses, including 10 that were destroyed. Almost all of the houses were still under construction, and no one was hurt.

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