A federal grand jury yesterday indicted five of the six men charged in the arsons that ravaged a Charles County subdivision last month, authorities said.
The indictment, which defense attorneys in the case said was expected, charges each suspect with four counts of arson and one count of conspiracy to commit arson. The announcement of the indictment shed no new light on a possible motive for the crime, Maryland's biggest residential arson in memory.
Interim U.S. Attorney Allen F. Loucks, right, discusses the indictment. One man arrested last month was not indicted.
(Matt Houston -- AP)
Flanked by state and federal officials whose agencies are part of the task force investigating the fires, Charles County Sheriff Frederick E. Davis yesterday offered a blunt assessment on the question of motive. "I have no idea what [the crime] is about," he said. "Who knows what people are thinking when they do something like this?"
The fires, on Dec. 6, destroyed 10 unoccupied new houses at the Hunters Brooke subdivision and damaged 16 others.
The men were charged last month under criminal complaints, meaning that a magistrate judge had found probable cause based on law enforcement affidavits. Prosecutors would have had to meet the same burden during preliminary hearings in court -- but with cross-examination from the defense -- had the grand jury not returned the indictments.
Investigators have considered a variety of motives. Federal authorities have said the alleged ringleader, Patrick S. Walsh, 20, of Fort Washington is the leader of a group called "the Family" and that he wanted to draw attention to it. A law enforcement affidavit says the group is also known as the "Unseen Cavaliers." The affidavit calls the group a gang operating in Charles County, but the group's Web site says it is for owners of Chevrolet Cavaliers.
Federal officials have also said that some of the suspects have referred to the arsons as "payback." One suspect was a security guard with a company hired to protect the subdivision who felt that the company had treated him poorly, according to a law enforcement affidavit. Another suspect had been turned down for a job by the Hunters Brooke developer, Lennar Homes Inc.
Walsh's attorney, William Purpura, yesterday said that his client did not participate in the arsons.
The indictment charges Walsh, Jeremy D. Parady of Accokeek, Roy T. McCann of Marbury in Charles County and Aaron L. Speed and Michael M. Everhart, both of Waldorf. All are in their early twenties. Last month, federal agents arrested those five as well as Michael E. Gilbert, 21, of Fort Washington.
Attorneys for McCann and Parady did not return phone calls seeking comment. Speed's attorney, John Chamble, would not comment on the case yesterday. William Brennan, Everhart's attorney, said, "In light of the allegations, the indictment comes as no surprise."
Yesterday, officials declined to say why Gilbert was not indicted. His attorney, Robert C. Bonsib, would not discuss the case in detail but said, "My client is very hopeful that at the end of this process, everyone will be convinced he had nothing to do with these events."
The indictment says the defendants conspired with one another and "with other persons known and unknown to the grand jury."
David L. McCain, assistant special agent in charge of the regional office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said the indictment was the result of "good, old-fashioned police work" by investigators pursuing hundreds of leads. "It is my hope that these indictments today will bring some relief to the community of Indian Head and specifically to the Hunters Brooke subdivision," McCain said.
Kevin Perkins, special agent in charge of the FBI's Baltimore field office, said investigators believe that they have answered the questions of "who, what, when and how." But, he added, "still unknown is 'why.' "
Staff writer Ruben Castaneda contributed to this report.