Sunday, October 24, 2010

Did Madrona arsonist make an attempt here?

Seattle Police are reportedly investigating whether the suspect who burglarized and then burned a house in Madrona last week was responsible for an earlier attempt to do the same thing in our own neighborhood. That’s the word, at least, from a victimized Madison Park homeowner who wishes to remain anonymous. His story provides us with one of those yes-it-can-happen-here wake-up moments.

Our informant reports that he and his wife returned to their Madison Park bungalow on Sunday afternoon last weekend and found that their garage had been opened in their absence. Noticing also that the back gate to their yard was ajar, they soon discovered that their basement door had been broken into. A propane heater from the garage had, for some reason, been moved into the basement. But strangely, a laptop and cell phone which were sitting in plain sight had not been touched, and nothing else had been stolen from the house either.

Given the muddy footprints going up the steps, it seemed apparent that the perpetrator had been scared off by the return of the homeowners. They considered themselves the victims of a foiled burglary and dutifully reported the incident to the police.

A couple days later, however, they heard the story of the Madrona arsonist. On Monday morning last week, a man had knocked on the door of a Madrona residence and asked the homeowner for permission to look around his yard for a missing ball. The unsuspicious homeowner not only gave permission for the search, but he then left the house. Shortly thereafter, the house caught fire. The fire department later determined that the fire had been deliberately set in the basement, and police believe that the purpose was to cover up a burglary.

The police also think that the perpetrator was using the lost-ball story as a ruse for determining whether anyone was at home in the houses he targeted for his crimes. Prior to the arson in Madrona, it appears he had used the same tactic on another homeowner in the neighborhood. In that case, however, the potential victim did not leave the premises and the suspect moved on after retrieving his ball.

The Madison Park couple had already been thinking there was something strange about their propane heater having been moved by the burglar into the basement. But the story of the arson in Madrona gave them further food for thought. They had already discovered a rubber ball in their yard that they had never seen before. Suddenly, the implications became clear. The police were brought back for a second look; and according to the homeowner, they took the ball away for DNA testing and dusted the premises for fingerprints.

What now appears to be a possible foiled arson attempt in Madison Park is a cautionary tale for us all. The homeowner certainly thinks so, which is why he shared his story with the Madison Park Blogger. “If we had stopped for a burger before returning home that Sunday,” he says, “we might have come back to a burning house.” He’d been thinking about installing a home security system before this incident, but that’s now a decision that has pretty much been made for him, he told us.

The Seattle Police have what they consider to be a very good sketch of the alleged arsonist (that’s him above), based on the descriptions given by the two Madrona homeowners who had lost-ball conversations with him. He is described as “a black male with a medium to dark complexion, 18 to early 20′s, 5’11″ tall, 150 lbs., athletic build, and hair in corn rows.”

This is the Madrona home he allegedly burglarized and torched:

[Sketch courtesy of the Seattle Police. Photo courtesy of the Seattle Fire Department.]

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