- The Washington Times - Monday, April 4, 2005

BALTIMORE — A federal grand jury added 31 arson counts to an indictment against five men accused in the largest arson case in Maryland history, the U.S. attorney’s office announced yesterday.

The superseding indictment, which replaces and expands on the charges, also accuses Patrick S. Walsh, 20, of Fort Washington, with possession of a firearm by an unlawful user of a controlled substance and conspiracy to distribute the drug Ecstasy.

The indictment was returned yesterdayat U.S. District Court in Greenbelt.

All five men have been charged with arson, conspiracy to commit arson and aiding and abetting in the Dec. 6 fires at the Hunters Brooke development in Charles County, Md. The other men are Aaron Lee Speed, 21, of Waldorf, Md.; Michael M. Everhart, 20, of Waldorf; Jeremy Daniel Parady, 20, of Accokeek; and Roy T. McCann Jr., 22, of Waldorf.

The superseding indictment charges the men with arson on 31 additional lots in the development. Four lots were cited in the first indictment. Each arson charge carries a mandatory minimum of five years in prison, with a maximum of 20 years in prison.

The 38-count indictment says the five suspects conspired with each other “and with other persons known and unknown to the grand jury.”

The fires caused $10 million in damage to 26 homes at the development in Indian Head, Md.

Another suspect, Michael E. Gilbert, 21, of Fort Washington, isn’t named in the indictment, but he has been charged in a criminal complaint in the case.

Prosecutors think that Mr. Walsh was the head of a group called “the family,” which planned and set the fires. Its members had a mutual interest in street racing and Chevrolet Cavalier cars, often meeting at the parking lot of a fast-food restaurant in Waldorf.

Several possible motives for the fires have been presented by prosecutors and in court filings, including a wish by Mr. Walsh to gain fame for “the family.” One defendant also told investigators that race might have been a motivation. Many of the residents who planned to move into Hunters Brooke were black, and all the suspects are white.

Mr. Walsh is scheduled to be tried first, on May 31, but his attorney, William Purpura, has filed a motion to have that trial date pushed back.

Mr. Purpura didn’t return a phone call seeking comment.

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