Arsonist Sentencing Tomorrow

Serial arsonist Thomas A. Sweatt is scheduled to be sentenced tomorrow on murder and arson charges.

Under terms of a plea agreement signed with prosecutors in the spring, Sweatt, 50, will be given a life prison term when he appears in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt.

All told, he has taken responsibility for 45 fires and one attempted arson in Maryland, the District and Virginia, including two blazes that killed elderly women.

The fires typically were set in early-morning hours just outside homes where people were sleeping.

Sweatt, a former fast-food restaurant manager from Southeast Washington, told authorities after his arrest in April that he was driven by demons and addicted to fire-setting.


Beach Drive Road Repairs

Rock Creek Park maintenance crews will repair road surfaces this week on Beach Drive in Northwest Washington, leading to some road closings during the day, the National Park Service said yesterday.

Beach Drive will be closed between Blagden Avenue and Park Road from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. tomorrow through Wednesday.

Beach will be closed between Park Road and Piney Branch Parkway during the same hours Thursday and Friday.


Wynn Plans Town Meeting

U.S. Rep. Albert R. Wynn (D) will hold a town meeting tomorrow to discuss hurricane relief efforts, high gas prices, Medicare and other subjects. It will be at 7 p.m. at Laytonsville Elementary School, 21401 Laytonsville Rd. in Gaithersburg.

Howard Wins Zoning Suit

A Howard County judge has rejected General Growth Properties' claim that the county illegally turned down a plan to increase residential density throughout Columbia.

In a ruling issued late Thursday, Circuit Court Judge Raymond J. Kane Jr. said the county's Zoning Board acted properly last year when it sought more specifics about Growth Properties' plans, which were part of a proposal to put upscale housing on a 51-acre tract next to Merriweather Post Pavilion.

The company did not supply the details the Zoning Board wanted, saying local zoning law did not require it.

General Growth has retooled its plans, asking the county to allow it to put a large commercial development on the property. The company also is planning to participate in an upcoming "charette" -- a community conversation -- about the future of downtown Columbia, which could cause it to again rethink its plans for the site. Dennis W. Miller, a General Growth vice president based in Columbia, could not be reached for comment.

Last year, Chicago-based General Growth bought the Rouse Co., the firm that built Columbia. The company has 30 days to appeal Kane's ruling.

Video Teaches Terrorism Signs

A video to help citizens spot possible terrorist activity has been created by the Montgomery County Police Department, police said Friday.

Timed to coincide with the fourth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the video, "The Seven Signs of Terrorism," illustrates terrorist methods by focusing on a possible bomb plot at the courthouse in Rockville.

Among the areas covered are ways terrorists might conduct surveillance, acquire supplies, test security and elicit information about their targets.

The video uses police officers, civilian employees and volunteers and is based on a movie created this year by Michigan State Police. It runs about seven minutes and can be viewed on Montgomery County's Web site under "Emergency Preparedness" at


Guilty Plea in Kickback Scheme

A supervisor at a Fairfax County garage has pleaded guilty to causing the county to acquire overpriced or unnecessary automotive products from a company and then accepting more than $17,000 in gratuities from the company.

Donald Wray, 36, entered his plea Friday to one count of mail fraud in U.S. District Court in Alexandria.

Prosecutors said the automotive products came from Stone Cold Chemicals, a Florida company, from 1998 to 2001. In return, the company gave Wray gift cards to stores such as Wal-Mart, Toys R Us and Target.

Wray was a supervisor with Fairfax County's Department of Vehicle Services at the county's West Ox Road garage. He faces up to 16 months in prison.

"Americans can't ever know that it's going to be over."

-- Alan Lipman, clinical psychologist at George Washington University, referring to continuing anxiety four years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. -- C1

Compiled from reports by staff writers Miranda S. Spivack, Jerry Markon and Fredrick Kunkle.