Evidence proves Harry Burkhart was behind 40+ SoCal fires, prosecutor says

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A prosecutor argued that evidence proves more than 40 fires set in Hollywood, West Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley are linked to Harry Burkhart. (KABC)

A reign of terror was portrayed in a Los Angeles courtroom as prosecutors summed up their case against Harry Burkhart, alleged to be the city's most prolific arsonist.

Jurors heard a 911 call from a woman speaking to the dispatcher as she tried to evacuate neighbors.

"It is really getting bad you guys. It is really getting bad. Oh God," says the panicked voice in the recording.

Video of the incident shows flames spreading from a carport to an occupied apartment complex. Burkhart is accused of setting more than 47 fires in the middle of the night. In 19 of the buildings, people had been sleeping.

If convicted, Burkhart will face a second trial. The question: Was he sane at the time of those crimes in December 2011. Did he understand his acts were wrong?

The alleged arson spree began when his mother, Dorothee Burkhart, a fugitive from Germany, was arrested in Hollywood and set for deportation.

In a jailhouse phone call, he vents his rage against the U.S.

"The only thing he can do is lash out. He says, 'I cannot remain calm.' He says, 'I want to roast America. I cannot remain calm,'" says prosecutor Sean Carney, who was reading a transcript.

The defense position is that while there is DNA evidence or surveillance video in six of the fires, there is no physical evidence to link Burkhart to 40 of the other incidents.

The prosecution showed a repeated pattern in the clusters of fires through four nights. The activity paused when Burkhart was caught on video in a local Ralphs restocking his arsenal.

The incendiary devices were items commonly used to start barbecues or fireplace fires.

In dramatic fashion, the deputy D.A. showed how Burkhart forgot the items were in his pocket when he approached a checkpoint at the German consulate.

"He goes to that little alcove, and he takes them out of his pocket and he hides them," Carney said. "How did Harry Burkhart set them down? ... In an arrangement, identical to the one he used to set fires under the cars."
Related Topics:
newscourt casearson investigationarsontrialbuilding fireLos Angeles
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