Md. man convicted in arson

April 12, 2011

A 32-year-old Maryland man faces possible life in prison for setting fire to a Montgomery County apartment building where a police detective lived, officials said Tuesday. Raven Masters set the fire to try to keep the detective, John Distel, from testifying against him in an earlier burglary case, authorities said.

“This man was willing to kill two dozen innocent people, including a police officer and his family, to avoid a burglary conviction,” said Montgomery Police Chief J. Thomas Manger.

Masters is scheduled to be sentenced on June 29. In all, there were 24 people in the apartment building at the time of fire.

A jury found Masters guilty last week of 24 counts of attempted murder, 12 counts of first-degree arson and other counts, including retaliation for testimony. On Jan. 19, 2010, Distel awoke to a loud blast, and fire was at his door. He, his wife and children were rescued by firefighters from their third-floor balcony, prosecutors said. Police discovered that the apartment building’s fire safety systems, including the interior fire sprinklers, had been disabled, prosecutors said.

Dan Morse covers courts and crime in Montgomery County. He arrived at the paper in 2005, after reporting stops at the Wall Street Journal, Baltimore Sun and Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser, where he was a Pulitzer Prize finalist. He is the author of The Yoga Store Murder.
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