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Hollywood arson suspect may have set fires in Canada

Harry Burkhart

January 6, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
A suspect in the recent series of Hollywood arsons may be linked to fires set in British Columbia, investigators say.

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

Harry Burkhart, 24, and his mother Dorothee Burkhart, 53, were both seeking refugee status in Canada after the two fled Germany four years ago after Dorothee Burkhart escaped from prison in that country.

According to multiple Canadian reports, Dorothee Burkhart escaped by complaining of heart trouble and climbing out of a bathroom window when she was taken to a hospital.

Dorothee Burkhart was arrested last week and is expected to be in federal court on Friday. The purpose of her hearing is to determine whether she should be released on bond.

Prosecutors want to deport her to Germany, where she is charged with 19 counts of fraud including failing to pay for breast augmentation surgery and withholding security deposits from renters.

Harry Burkhart is believed to be behind more than 50 fires that destroyed dozens of cars and damaged buildings in and around the Hollywood area. Damage is estimated at $3 million.

Authorities say he reportedly went on that arson spree after learning his mother would be returning to Germany for her crimes.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents said Dorothee Burkhart is in the U.S. illegally. ICE officials said they also plan to prosecute Harry Burkhart because his visa is set to expire later this month.

Dorothee Burkhart was in court for another extradition hearing Friday. The hearing was postponed for the second time in a week as Burkhart refused to be represented by a public defender. She showed the judge a bruise on her arm and claimed to have been beaten and tortured by U.S. Marshals while in custody.

"These allegations are certainly nothing that I can address. A judge didn't seem to give any credence to them," said Justice Dept. Spokesman Thom Mrozek.

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

Harry Burkhart was arrested Monday and charged with 37 counts of arson.

According to CNN, a medical doctor in Canada diagnosed Harry Burkhart with autism, severe anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder and depression. Both mother and son were patients of this doctor.

The younger Burkhart was in court on Wednesday in Los Angeles for a preliminary hearing. He kept his eyes closed and had to have sheriff's deputies hold him up throughout most of the hearing. Prosecutors described his behavior as very bizarre.

His arraignment was postponed to Jan. 24 with bail set at $2.85 million.

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