The Washington Post

Man charged with setting Capitol Heights fires

(Courtesy of Prince George's County fire department)

Police and fire officials said Maurice D. McPherson, 28, was in an ongoing dispute with his neighbors, and that might have driven him to start the fires early Tuesday morning in the 1400 block of Early Oaks Lane and the 1200 block of Farmingdale Avenue. He was identified by witnesses on the scene and taken into police custody immediately afterward, authorities said.

The fires, which occurred about 4:15 a.m., injured three residents and two firefighters, though none seriously, authorities said.

The fire on Early Oaks Lane was particularly intense, authorities said. The blaze completely destroyed the single-family home at which it was started, caused $250,000 in damage and displaced nine people, including four children. The fire on Farmingdale Avenue was somewhat less serious, causing only $500 in damage to a home's front porch.

Mark Brady, a Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department spokesman, said in a news release that investigators are still probing the circumstances of each fire. Cpl. Evan Baxter, a Prince George’s County police spokesman, said police had been called to the area previously for an ongoing neighborhood dispute, and that is believed to have possibly motivated the man to set the fires.

Online court records show that only a day before the fires, McPherson was charged with disorderly conduct and failing to obey a peace order. He had previously been convicted of trespassing and prostitution, online court records show.

Matt Zapotosky covers the federal district courthouse in Alexandria, where he tries to break news from a windowless office in which he is not allowed to bring his cell phone.


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