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Handyman Arrested After Attacks and Blaze in Newport Beach Home

Assailant had tied a doctor up and let flames spread while he fled. The suspect is apprehended at a motel where he lived.

October 17, 2003|H.G. Reza | Times Staff Writer

A handyman who allegedly tied up a Newport Beach physician and then set fire to her house was arrested early Thursday morning when he returned to the motel room where he had been living.

Kevin Duane Carpenter tried to run when he saw Newport Beach officers in the parking lot but then stopped and was arrested without a struggle, police said. The motel is in the 2200 block of Newport Boulevard in Costa Mesa, less than two miles from the home where he allegedly attacked Carol A. Jackson.

Newport Beach Police Sgt. Steve Shulman said Carpenter, 41, worked as a handyman at Jackson's home in the 1700 block of Galaxy Drive. But Shulman said detectives are also "looking at what [Carpenter and Jackson's] relationship is."

A police report of the arrest said Carpenter was dirty and wet and had cactus needles lodged all over his body when apprehended. He had escaped in the confusion caused by the fire by climbing down a steep cliff behind the house and hiding for hours in the Upper Newport Bay Ecological Preserve, Shulman said.

He said investigators believe Carpenter walked back to the motel after police and firefighters left the scene. Carpenter was booked at Newport Beach City Jail on suspicion of attempted murder and arson and held without bail. He will be arraigned today or Monday at Harbor Justice Center in Newport Beach.

At 9:58 a.m. Wednesday, a woman described as Jackson's personal assistant made a 911 call reporting a man with a gun at the Galaxy Drive residence. Shulman said the woman had arrived at the house unexpectedly and found Jackson tied up.

Shulman said Carpenter struck her on the forehead and proceeded to tie her up too. But the woman freed herself and ran outside to call police on a cell phone. She told police that a gunman was trying to abduct a woman, later identified as Jackson, who was inside the home.

Several Newport Beach detectives were in the area to serve a warrant at another home and were diverted to Jackson's home. The house was ablaze when police arrived, and officers saw Carpenter through a window, Shulman said. The man was ordered to surrender but fled, he said.

Officers forced their way into the smoke-filled house and found Jackson, who was dressed in a robe, bound and gagged and lying on the floor. She was carried to safety.

Shulman said investigators were still trying to find a motive for the assaults and arson, which left the $1-million house, leased by Jackson, a smoldering ruin.

Shortly after noon Thursday, Jackson returned to the home to collect the few valuables and heirlooms that survived the fire, which had burned for hours.

She was accompanied by a teenage son, her personal assistant and a friend. Jackson asked not to be photographed as she sifted through the rubble and declined to speak with a reporter. The assistant also declined to speak or be identified.

"[Jackson] is scared. She just lost everything," said the friend, who also declined to give her name.

Jackson, dressed in brown sweatpants and a brown sweater, looked stunned as she walked among the ashes of what used to be her family's life. But there was a moment of relief when the family cat, Sylvester, was found alive in the ruins. The feline had survived the fire and thousands of gallons of water poured on the blaze.

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