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Hollywood arson suspect charged with 37 counts of arson

January 4, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
A suspect in a string of Hollywood arsons over the New Year's Eve weekend was charged with 37 counts of arson.

View an interactive map of the locations of the arson fires.

Harry Burkhart, 24, is believed to be behind more than 50 fires that destroyed dozens of cars and damaged buildings. Damage is estimated at $3 million.

Burkhart was charged with 37 counts of arson.

"After reviewing the available evidence, we filed 28 counts of arson of property and nine counts of arson of an inhabited structure," said District Attorney Steve Cooley. "The current charges relate to arson fires at 13 locations in Hollywood, West Hollywood and Sherman Oaks between Dec. 30 and Jan. 2."

"The investigation of the 52 fires believed connected to this defendant is not over. Appropriate action will be taken as further evidence is presented for our review," said Cooley in a statement.

Burkhart was originally scheduled to be arraigned in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom Wednesday afternoon, but the arraignment was postponed until Jan. 24. Burkhart's bail was set at $2.85 million. He was ordered to surrender his passport. He was represented by a public defender.

The district attorney indicated more charges may be filed by the next court date due to the ongoing investigation.

It was revealed Wednesday that Harry Burkhart is wanted in Frankfurt, Germany, on suspicion of setting fire to his house in an attempt to collect insurance money.

Authorities said Burkhart went on the rampage because of the legal troubles of his mother, Dorothee Burkhart. They said he started the fires a day after she was arrested for an extradition hearing on 19 charges of fraud in Germany, including failure to pay for breast augmentation and failure to return security deposits on apartments she rented to tenants.

Federal agents helped identify Burkhart on surveillance tapes because he had a verbal outburst of obscenities and anti-American sentiments during his mother's first court appearance for her case. He was escorted from the courthouse.

Dorothee Burkhart appeared in court on Tuesday. She kept asking for her son, apparently unaware that he was arrested on the arson charges. She said that he was mentally ill and that he may have been taken by "German Nazis."

The two lived together in a one-bedroom apartment in Hollywood. Neighbors said the mother and son kept to themselves.

"He was strange, withdrawn, not very outspoken, kind of shy," said neighbor Peter McKenzie.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents said Dorothee Burkhart is in the country illegally.

ICE officials said they also plan to prosecute Harry Burkhart because his visa is set to expire later this month.

Dorothee Burkhart apparently operated an erotic website out of her apartment.

See photos of the fire damage in Hollywood and North Hollywood.