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Investigators looking at three suspicious vehicle fires

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Three stolen cars, three arsons.

Investigators for state police and the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department are trying to determine who would steal three vehicles, and why, during the past two weekends, dump them a short distance away and set them on fire.

Calling it “a rash of vehicle arsons,” Detective Maurice Guidry Jr. of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department said the vehicles were “torched” so badly that they are “unrecognizable.”

So far, police have no suspects. However, the Sheriff’s Department has released a description of a man seen getting out of the vehicle found over the weekend.

Investigators are perplexed about a motive. The agencies are working together to solve the cases.

“It’s bizarre, especially for the fact that we have vehicle fires only now and then,” Mr. Guidry said.

State police Investigator Stephen P. Kealy speculated the person responsible may be trying to hide evidence in the vehicle thefts or “some people just like to be around fires.”

Investigators have not uncovered a connection among the three owners of the vehicles. But they do see similarities in the fires. In each case, the vehicles were destroyed. They also were found a short distance from where they were taken.

Just after midnight Sunday, sheriff’s deputies responded to a vehicle fire with the Calcium Fire Department on Virginia Smith Drive. The vehicle had been stolen from a nearby location on Route 11 and driven to Virginia Smith Drive, where, witnesses said, they saw a man get out of the vehicle while it appeared to be on fire.

Deputies said they are looking for a white male, between 5 feet, 9 inches and 6 feet tall, with close-cut, dark hair. He was last seen running though the Creek Wood Apartments complex on Virginia Smith Drive wearing khaki shorts, dark sneakers, dark gloves and no shirt. He entered a wooded area adjacent to the apartment complex.

Similar incidents happened to two other vehicles the weekend before. State police are handling those two arsons.

The vehicles were stolen sometime May 11 or May 12, police said. A green 2001 Land Rover Discovery II was stolen from a driveway on Mill Street in Theresa. That vehicle was found May 13 on Lovers Lane, less than a half-mile north of Route 971V in the town of LeRay. It had been abandoned there and destroyed by fire, police said.

The other vehicle — a black 2008 Ford F-150 pickup truck — was taken from a driveway on Libby Lane in the town of LeRay. It was found engulfed in flames and was destroyed by the fire, state police said.

In the two state police cases, the keys were not inside the stolen vehicles, but were left in nearby vehicles that were not taken, Mr. Kealy said.

Police continue to seek the public’s assistance in solving the three incidents.

Anyone with information about the May 11 and 12 incidents is asked to call Mr. Kealy at 782-2112. Anyone with information about the Sunday incident or the subject involved is asked to call sheriff’s Detective Sgt. Paige C. Taylor at 786-2601.

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