Pr. George's Firefighter Arrested in Arson Plot

By Aaron C. Davis
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 14, 2008; 3:15 PM

The Prince George's County fire department arrested one of its own last night, alleging that a veteran county firefighter stopped on his way to work and ignited a blaze two weeks ago that he and others were soon called out to fight.

County fire investigators say Michael D. Murphy, 42, of the 400 block of Cross Creek Dr. in Huntingtown, stopped at a Langley Park area Asian Carry Out on Nov. 1, walked behind the restaurant and lighted a stack of boxes and newspapers. He then drove to the county's Chillum-Adelphi Fire/EMS Station, where the call came in minutes later to respond to the blaze, which was extinguished before the building was destroyed, fire officials said.

Murphy was caught on the restaurant's security camera, said Mark Brady, a spokesman for the department. He was charged last night with first-degree and second-degree arson, as well as malicious burning. All three are felonies, and Murphy is being held in the county's jail on $150,000 bond.

A message left at Murphy's home was not immediately returned.

"He was caught in the act, almost, on a store security camera," Brady said. "Regardless of who you are or what you do for a living, we will investigate and prosecute to the fullest extent of the law." Brady said Murphy was placed on administrative leave without pay following his arrest.

Lai Yang, an employee at the Asian Carry Out, in the 2500 block of University Boulevard, said she and the restaurant's owner reviewed the tape and saw a man walk behind the restaurant.

"My boss saw it and first thought [the firefighter] saw the blaze and came to check it out. He knew he was a guy from the fire department," Yang said.

Yang said the blaze damaged the restaurant's roof and burned stacks of menus, as well as boxes behind the building. Brady said the department had estimated the cost of the damage to be about $1,000.

Murphy joined the county fire department in 1989. In 2004, he was placed on probation after pleading guilty to a charge of theft -- the least of several dropped charges stemming from an alleged scheme involving stolen credit cards.

A source close to the arson investigation said the fire department had fired Murphy in 2004 because of the credit card allegations and theft conviction. His job was later restored through labor arbitration, the source said.

If convicted on all three charges, Murphy could face maximum penalties totaling $85,000 or 55 years in jail.

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