Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Police believe latest arson at Tampa house is unrelated to previous five

TAMPA — A vacant house in the V.M. Ybor neighborhood that was repeatedly set on fire during an 18-month string of arsons that frightened residents was the target of arson again early Monday.

The latest fire raises a perplexing question: With a serial arson suspect behind bars, why was the house hit again?

"We don't know why this house has been targeted, but we don't believe it's part of any pattern," said police spokeswoman Andrea Davis, who said the fire didn't share the same characteristics as the previous arsons at the address. She declined to elaborate.

Fire crews responded to 1412 E 21st Ave. shortly after midnight. It took crews almost 40 minutes to get the fire under control. The blaze caused $50,000 in damage, exceeding the home's value, said Tampa Fire Rescue Capt. Lonnie Benniefield.

No one was injured and the cause was not immediately available.

It's the sixth time since Nov. 1, 2009, that the home has been set ablaze. The building had previously been targeted three times in November 2009, once in December 2009 and again in January 2010.

Kim Headland, president of the V.M. Ybor Neighborhood Association, has a simple explanation why it may have been targeted again.

"It's a vacant property," she said, "and it draws that attention, unfortunately."

Headland lamented the area's high vacancy rate, saying that it contributes to illegal behavior.

"That particular house … it's kind of a magnet for that," she said. "Hopefully it will be torn down."

The house fires that terrorized V.M. Ybor neighborhood residents began in February 2008. More than two dozen fires were deliberately set.

In July 2010, police arrested the man they said was responsible for at least one of the fires — a Jan. 29 arson at 1412 E 21st Ave.

Kenneth B. Smith, 44, faces a charge of first-degree arson in the incident. He's suspected of starting 13 fires in the area, including four others at that address.

Smith was still in a Hillsborough County jail on Monday on a first-degree arson charge.

Another man arrested in the spate of Ybor arsons, 57-year-old Reginald Gray, also was in jail Monday.

In May, police arrested Gray after he told authorities he torched two homes because he was tired of homeless people living rent-free. Investigators have said they believe he is linked to five more, but he only faces charges in two fires.

Police have said they don't expect to make any other arrests in the arsons.

Freddie Restl, who works at a small-engine repair shop next to 1412 E 21st Ave., said he thought the fires were put out for good.

"What I don't get is they already got somebody for the arson," said Restl, 53, . "How is it happening again? It makes you wonder."

Tampa Fire officials ask anyone with information about the fire to call (813) 274-7000.

Police believe latest arson at Tampa house is unrelated to previous five 07/18/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 19, 2011 12:14am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Review: The Underwoods bring the political terror in 'House of Cards' Season 5


    The ruthless Frank and Claire Underwood are back, continuing their own form of terror inside and outside of the White House.

    Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in House of Cards Season 5 on Netflix.
  2. Trump hails heroes at Arlington on Memorial Day


    WASHINGTON — UPDATE, 12:28 P.M.: President Donald Trump is expressing his nation's "boundless and undying" gratitude to Americans who have fallen in battle and to the families they left behind.

    President Donald Trump participates in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day, May 29, 2017 in Arlington, Virginia. [Photo by Olivier Douliery - Pool/Getty Images]
  3. French president attacks Russian media outlets; Putin says Moscow didn't try to influence French election


    VERSAILLES, France — UPDATE, 11:57 A.M.: French President Emmanuel Macron has made an extraordinary attack on two Russian media outlets, saying they acted as "propaganda" organs during France's election campaign.

    French President Emmanuel Macron, right, speaks to Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Galerie des Batailles (Gallery of Battles) at the Versailles Palace as they arrive for a joint press conference following their meeting in Versailles, near Paris, France, Monday. [Stephane de Sakutin/Pool Photo via AP]
  4. In this Dec. 4, 2016, file photo, Tiger Woods watches his tee shot on the third hole during the final round at the Hero World Challenge golf tournament in Nassau, Bahamas. Woods has been arrested on a drunken driving charge in Palm Beach County , various media outlets are reporting. [AP photo]
  5. Tiger Woods arrested on DUI charge in Florida

    Public Safety

    Golfer Tiger Woods was arrested on a DUI charge Monday in Jupiter, according to the Palm Beach County sheriff's office.

    Tiger Woods has been arrested on a DUI charge in Florida.