6 Infamous Arsonists and How They Got Caught

An investigation of the dozens of arson fires in Los Angeles last weekend led to the arrest of 24-year-old German national Harry Burkhart. The case inspired Meghan Holohan to look up famous arson cases and the men who set those fires. Take the case of John “Pillow Pyro” Orr, who set around 2,000 fires that killed four people.
During an arson investigators conference in Bakersfield, Calif., in January 1987, several suspicious fires broke out. At one of the fires, investigators found a single fingerprint on a piece of notebook paper. Two years later, during another fire investigators conference in Pacific Grove, an outbreak of small fires occurred. Bakersfield’s arson investigator compared the participants at both conferences and found 10 people attended both. By 1991, the investigators formed the Pillow Pyro task force and published a profile, noting the suspect was most likely an arson investigator from the greater Los Angeles area. The fingerprint found at the first conference was compared to those of the 10 attendees of both conferences; it matched Orr’s fingerprint. When he was arrested in November 1991, police found cigarettes, rubber bands, and binoculars.

A book Orr had written earlier about a fireman who was an arsonist did not help his defense. Read the story of Orr and five other arsonists at mental_floss. Link

(Image credit: Reuters/Gene Blevins/Lando)

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