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Plea Deal in Maryland Arsons

June 24, 2005|From Associated Press

GREENBELT, Md. — A former housing development security guard pleaded guilty Thursday to setting fires that destroyed at least 10 of the development's homes, saying he torched the houses in part because his employer denied him bereavement leave when his baby son died.

Aaron L. Speed, 21, admitted to having helped start the Dec. 6 fires, which caused $10 million in damage to houses under construction in southern Maryland. He told investigators he was angry at his employer and resentful of the wealth of those buying houses in the upscale Hunters Brooke development, prosecutor Timothy Atkins said.

Speed, one of six men originally arrested in the fires, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit arson. The charge carries five to 20 years in prison. He also agreed to cooperate in the prosecution of the three remaining defendants. His sentencing was set for Oct. 18.

The fires marked the biggest residential arson case in Maryland history, causing widespread damage to property belonging mostly to black homeowners. Six white men were arrested in the case.

Charges against one of the men were dropped. Another man, 21-year-old Jeremy Daniel Parady, pleaded guilty to conspiracy in April. Prosecutors said Parady helped set the fires because he was upset that black families were moving in.

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