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Two St. Petersburg teens arrested in vehicle, house fires

One of the cars set on fire in St. Petersburg on Sunday morning was on 14th Street near 21st Avenue N. Two teenagers face felony arson charges in 14 vehicle fires and one house fire.

Photo by Eamonn Kneeshaw

One of the cars set on fire in St. Petersburg on Sunday morning was on 14th Street near 21st Avenue N. Two teenagers face felony arson charges in 14 vehicle fires and one house fire.

ST. PETERSBURG — Cassandra Cushing has been using her 2007 Toyota Solara to get to job interviews since she was laid off in November.

Sunday, she awoke at 6 a.m. to find her white, two-door, soft-top convertible had been set on fire.

"It's my only way of transportation," said Cushing, 47. "It's just been a terrible day."

Cushing's was the last of 14 vehicles to be set on fire over a two-hour span early Sunday. A final arson occurred at a home. No injuries were reported.

Police arrested two 16-year-old boys Sunday and charged them each with four felony arson charges. They were identified as Mathew Pineda Kiernan and Francis Huy Du, both of whom live in central St. Petersburg.

Police said they are still looking for "a few more juvenile suspects" they believe were involved and are investigating whether the teens might have committed other arsons. Nearly all of Sunday's fires occurred in east St. Petersburg.

The first arson call came in at 4:26 a.m. The last came in at 6:22 a.m., when Jim Nelson called 911 to report a fire on his front porch.

Nelson was on his way back to the bedroom from the kitchen, when he noticed "orange, amber flickering" showing through the cat door on his front door, he said.

A fire had been set right outside the front door on the tile porch. Another fire, also set on the porch, appeared to have fizzled out on its own, he said.

Nelson was busy cleaning up the mess Sunday afternoon.

"For punishment, I want them to come over here and scrub and paint," said Nelson, 65.

Police said the arson at Nelson's home was the last of the fires.

The teenagers said they used IBC Root Beer and Orange Crush soda bottles, which they bought on sale, and gasoline to make Molotov cocktail-type devices, police said. Some of the devices did not fully ignite and were found by investigators.

The teens said they randomly selected the vehicles and the house and offered boredom as their motive.

"What they're telling investigators is that basically they were bored," said police spokesman Bill Proffitt, who could not estimate the amount of damages.

Cushing said she found it appalling the teenagers caused so much destruction because they had nothing better to do.

"To me, it's even worse that it was just for ha-has," Cushing said. "Thank God nobody got hurt."

Rita Farlow can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4162.

Two St. Petersburg teens arrested in vehicle, house fires 02/01/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 3, 2009 11:58am]
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