Police arrest two in PA arson spree; one victim from Parkton
For months, authorities in southern Pennsylvania were stumped by a string of serial car arson fires at which playing cards were found at the scenes. On Friday, police arrested two men who face charges in the fires, one of which occurred in March in Parkton.
Here's the tale:
The arsonists had left behind their signature trademark: cards forming a trail that started with the deuce at the fire’s source and continued on in sequential order, ending with the ace face up on Carls’ stoop, a note scrawled on it taunting authorities.
“It was eerie,” Carls said on Saturday, a day after police in Pennsylvania announced the arrests of two suspects in string of car fires that began in December 2009 and terrified residents living just north of the Maryland border in Shrewsbury, Glen Rock and New Freedom.
Pennsylvania State Police told reporters at a news conference on Friday that more charges are expected in up to 14 fires in that state and the one at Carls’ house in northern Baltimore County that occurred in March of last year.
The break in the case that frustrated and perplexed police for months came with the help of an informant’s tip that a specific car was to be torched.
According to a police charging document, police set up surveillance on Forest Hills Road in Windsor Township. About 12:30 a.m. on Friday, the court document says officers saw two men set fire to the car’s driver’s seat. The suspects were arrested as they drove away.
Pennsylvania newspapers dubbed the arson spree the “King of Hearts” fires because of the playing cards and speculation that the motive was a dispute arising out of a local high school “King of Hearts” charity dance.
But police on Friday told the York Daily Record that the fires had nothing to do with the dance, though they declined to describe the motive. They also refused to say what was written on the playing cards, though they confirmed notes had been found at many of the scenes and that the king of hearts was among cards often left behind.
Authorities said the vehicles were apparently chosen at random, and it was unclear why the suspects allegedly crossed into Maryland and found their way to Carls house on Andrews Court in Parkton. Carls said he has no connection to Pennsylvania or to police there.
In a telephone interview on Saturday, the 53-year-old Carls said was “pleased to hear” about the arrests but he remains befuddled about why he became a target. He said he was home sleeping the night of the fire when his yellow lab Sadie woke him up to go outside.
“When I got down to the garage and looked out, that’s when I noticed the car was fully in flames,” he said. He ran back upstairs and got his wife and adult daughter out of the house and called the fire department.
He had three cars parked in the driveway. At first, only his daughter’s Saturn sedan, the one closest to the house, was ablaze. Carls said he watched as flames jumped from the Saturn to his Toyota Camry, and then nicked the side of his house before firefighters arrived.
“There wasn’t a whole lot we could do,” he said.