Victim's account of Essex house fire points to incendiary device
10:26 AM, Feb 4, 2014
6:02 PM, Feb 4, 2014
ESSEX, Md. -
In the critical seconds before firefighters arrived at the two-story house on Essex Avenue, a work crew spotted a dog barking in the front yard, smoke billowing from the side of the home and a woman crawling out of an upstairs window.
"She actually came on top of the roof," said neighbor Dee Euceda. "We put two ladders against the roof and she didn't want to come down. She wanted to go back in and get her dog out, and then one of the police officer arrived and we finally got her down."
What the victim told police would draw the bomb squad and federal agents with the ATF to the scene.
"The scene that this lady described with the sudden noise... the window shattering... has led us to suspect that perhaps there might have been an incendiary device involved," said Elise Armacost, a spokeswoman for the Baltimore County Police Department.
While it's not yet been determined whether this was the work of an arsonist, the victim's neighbors say they don't have to look far for a suspect.
They say an unidentified man who lives next door has a history of shooting off guns, mental evaluations and most recently, some of their addresses and threats appeared scrawled on the siding of his house around the front door.
"So we called the police and told the police the guy had our addresses on the front of our house and it said 'Kill me." It said that 732 had something buried under the driveway and the house next door, 735, it said she had something hidden in her walls," said Debbie Nickles, another neighbor.
Walls charred by the fire, which destroyed the home, and fear spread through the community that the next door neighbor in question was nowhere to be found.
"We don't know," said Angeline Sanders, a third neighbor. "First, we heard he was in custody and then next we heard he hasn't. So we don't know where he's at."
While police say it's too early to say what happened here, residents say they called police repeatedly in recent weeks alerting them to a suspicious neighbor and they shouldn't be surprised they're now dealing with a suspicious fire to boot.
"The police officer yelled at me, because they evacuated us and my mom is 80 and I was getting her out of the house, and the police officer yelled at me and said, 'You know I'm starting to lose my patience with you,' and I said, 'Well, you know what? If you had done something yesterday about this idiot maybe this wouldn't have happened,'" said Nickles.
Police say they have now located a neighbor for questioning about the suspicious fire, but at this point, they are not calling him a suspect. The homeowner, along with a firefighter and police officer were transported to the hospital for non-life-threatening injuries.