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St. Petersburg Police seek two teens over house set on fire while family slept inside

ST. PETERSBURG — A loud pop broke the silence of early morning, waking Jessica Ryan.

It was just before 5 a.m. as Ryan, 36, walked through the darkness, trying to find the source of the noise. She noticed a faint glow out the window. The carport was on fire.

Another pop — aerosol cans were exploding.

Flames soon were tearing through the wall separating the laundry machines from the bedroom of her sleeping 6-year-old daughter.

"My wife, she ran back in the bedroom screaming, 'The house is on fire! The house is on fire!' " said Richard Ryan, 43.

They ran outside, leaving clothes and belongings to be consumed by the blaze. The fire, which destroyed much of the Ryans' house at 3337 28th Street N on May 6, was declared arson by investigators.

On Monday, St. Petersburg Police issued a call for help in identifying two teenagers suspected in the crime.

"My family almost died,'' Ryan said.

In addition to the arson, police said, both of Ryan's vehicles had been broken into and ransacked.

"Honestly, I would care less if you just stole from me," Ryan said. "I don't own anything that's worth someone getting hurt."

Ryan, who went back to work Monday for the first time since the fire, said he still has sores and burns on his feet from standing in the smoldering ash of his home, trying to fight the flames with his garden hose.

He was unable to contain it before firefighters arrived.

The family's two dogs, Chunk and Rosie, made it out of the burning building in time, but their cats, Snickers, Trixie and Ellie had to be plucked from the flames by firefighters. Trixie was blinded by the smoke. Snickers lost her sight, hearing and motor skills. The family had to put her down.

Ryan wishes the people who did this could see the damage they caused.

"I'm trying to comprehend what these kids were thinking, and I just don't understand," Ryan said. "I want them to walk through my house and see what they did. I want them to see how, literally, my daughter could have been killed. They have no idea. They do not comprehend what they've done."

As officers were investigating the fire scene, they found a small fire that appeared to have been set to a tree stump nearby, in the 3000 block of Lown Street N.

"There's nothing indicating that this was a targeted act," said St. Petersburg Police spokesman Mike Puetz. "Some people just destroy property for the sake of destroying property. There's some sort of rush they get out of damaging something."

The two teenagers were captured on surveillance video at a nearby 24-hour laundromat about the time of the fires, Puetz said.

Anyone with information about the identities of the teens has been asked to call Detective Bill Schorn at (727) 893-5212 or call the anonymous Tip Line at (727) 892-5000.

Marissa Lang can be reached at mlang@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3386.

St. Petersburg Police seek two teens over house set on fire while family slept inside 05/14/12 [Last modified: Monday, May 14, 2012 5:40pm]

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