- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 4, 2006


Upset that he was being teased, a University of Maryland student intentionally set a house fire last spring that killed a fellow student, police said yesterday.

Daniel Murray, 20, was arrested Wednesday on the College Park campus and charged with murder and arson in the April 30, 2005, fire, Prince George’s County police said.

A break in the yearlong investigation came last week, when an anonymous tipster contacted police with information that led to an interview with a co-worker of Mr. Murray’s, according to charging documents.

The co-worker told police that Mr. Murray had been angry about something that happened at the house a few hours before the fire, then returned with a can of gasoline and intentionally started the blaze.

“He started getting teased, and a little altercation ensued,” Lt. Robert Nealon said yesterday at a press conference. Lt. Nealon said Mr. Murray, of Berwyn Heights, had confessed to starting the fire and was cooperating with authorities.

The fire killed Michael Anthony Scrocca, 22, a finance major from Branchburg, N.J. Firefighters found Mr. Scrocca in a second-floor bedroom and a gasoline can on the porch. Another man in the house was seriously burned but survived after jumping from a second-floor window.

Steve Kerpelman, a local private investigator working for the Scrocca family, said he has conducted more than 100 interviews, but never determined whether Mr. Murray was ever in the house.

“Nobody knew him,” Mr. Kerpelman said. “He wasn’t associated with the house at all.”

Mr. Murray is expected to appear in Prince George’s District Court today.

Seven students were renting the 21/2-story house in the 7500 block of Princeton Avenue and had hosted a party that had broken up a few hours before the fire broke out. According to investigators, about three dozen people had been at the party.

Mr. Kerpelman said witnesses denied that there had been any serious dispute at the party, though someone apparently had shouted at a departing guest to close the door. Police said someone in the house apparently shouted at Mr. Murray as he walked by.

Students at nearby off-campus fraternity houses expressed surprise the attack might have been in response to shouted comments.

“If he was being heckled, that’s a bad thing, but it’s not worth that,” said Jason Webster of Aberdeen.

Other students expressed relief an arrest had been made.

“Someone died in that fire. Somebody needs to be held responsible,” said Aaron Horner of Hampstead.



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