The arson charge that landed Aaron L. Speed in a federal courtroom yesterday was brought because he repeatedly tripped over his own story in accounting for his whereabouts during the early-morning hours when fire engulfed 10 new homes in a Charles County subdivision.
Using contradictory statements Speed gave reporters and investigators, and tracking his movements by pinpointing the cell phone towers that handled his calls, authorities successfully confronted Speed with his deceptions on Thursday, according to a federal affidavit. He admitted that he was "present" when the fires were set, the court document said.
Aaron L. Speed, 21, center, arrives at the federal courthouse in Greenbelt for a hearing. He was ordered held without bail during a brief appearance.
(Chris Gardner -- AP)
Affidavit signed by FBI agent in support of criminal complaint against Aaron L. Speed.
Md. Arson: Ten homes were destroyed and 16 damaged, resulting in an estimated $10 million in destruction to the new subdivision.
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Charles County Fires
As a federal judge ordered Speed held without bail, a picture emerged yesterday from documents and interviews of a man who was deeply troubled by the death of his infant son, frustrated in his effort to become a volunteer firefighter and unhappy with the security service that employed him.
Speed, 21, appeared to avoid eye contact with his pregnant wife, Tamara, and other family members during a brief appearance yesterday in U.S. District Court. Wearing a black T-shirt bearing an image of a skeleton and the phrase "Dead Stroke," he responded respectfully as Magistrate Judge William Connelly advised him of his rights and granted his request for a public defender.
The seven-page affidavit says Speed admitted that he, "along with others with whom he was acquainted," was at the Hunters Brooke subdivision Dec. 6 when fires that destroyed or damaged 26 unoccupied houses were set.
Law enforcement sources said a second suspect was being questioned yesterday. The suspect, whom they declined to name, was identified as a man who had been rejected for a job by Lennar Corp., the developer of the houses.
Speed came to the attention of investigators after he showed up at the fire scene not long after the predawn conflagrations were brought under control by scores of firefighters.
He identified himself to a Washington Post reporter as an employee of Security Services of America, the company contracted to guard the construction sight, and was quoted in the newspaper as raising suspicion about a van that he said he saw "lingering around" the area before the fires erupted.
That led to his questioning by investigators when, according to the affidavit, he was asked to speculate on the methods that the arsonist might have used.
He responded that the fires might have been set by "someone pouring an accelerant, followed by someone lighting it."
"With a torch," the affidavit quotes him as saying.
What type of torch could be used?
"Hand-held propane torch."