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Audio tapes reveal arson-suspect mom's demands to see son

Harry Burkhart

January 9, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
The mother of arson suspect Harry Burkhart has been vocal in the days following her son's arrest. Audio recordings from court were released Monday.

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

The audiotape gives a better idea of the timeline between Dorothee Burkhart's court proceedings and her son's alleged crime spree. And on the tapes the urgency in her voice can be heard when she tries to explain that her son is mentally ill and that he should not be left alone.

A few hours after her outbursts in court, the fires would start, a destructive arson spree that terrorized Los Angeles. It began the night of December 29.

Earlier that day, authorities say, their key suspect was thrown out of a federal courthouse. Harry Burkhart, 24, was apparently disruptive, and making anti-American remarks.

The German national was attending a deportation hearing for his mother, Dorothee, who faces fraud charges in her native Germany. At the hearing, Dorothee pleaded for her release, saying her son could not be left alone.

"He has to know what's happening, what's happening," said Dorothee Burkhart on tape. "This is a case, and he don't know anything, and he's very worried and very mentally ill."

In the audiotape recordings of proceedings obtained by Eyewitness News, Dorothee Burkhart makes several references to her son being mentally ill. Dorothee also made several mentions of a Nazi conspiracy against her and her son.

"I am a poor woman with a mental ill son," said Dorothee Burkhart on tape. "I'm more than 10 years persecuted by fascist Nazi organizations in Germany. And we tried to escape them, but we are not able to fight against them."

As U.S. District Judge Margaret Nagle tried to explain the extradition process to Dorothee Burkhart, she seemed only to care about being reunited with her son.

"The first conspiracy is to be separated from my son. He's 25 and he's mental ill," said Dorothee on tape.

Harry Burkhart was not allowed back into the courtroom, and a few hours later, more than a dozen fires were set in the Hollywood area. He was arrested January 2 and was subsequently charged with 37 counts of arson.

On January 3, his mother made her second federal court appearance and seemed unaware of Harry's link to the arson spree.

"My first question, where is my son? What did you do to my son?," said Dorothee on tape.

"I did not do anything," answers the judge.

"You eliminated my son. Since yesterday he is not available. What did you do to my son?" said Dorothee.

In another outburst, she repeated her claims about a conspiracy.

At her most recent court appearance last Friday, Dorothee claimed she had been abused while in federal custody.

Dorothee Burkhart remains in federal custody. She is scheduled to return to court Tuesday. It's her fourth court appearance as part of the extradition process.

Harry Burkhart is being held on a $2.8-million bail. He is scheduled to be arraigned Jan. 24.

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