Photos: Suspected serial arsonist accused of decimating Detroit neighborhood

This house was intentionally set ablaze at Robinwood and Charleston
This house was recently set ablaze at Robinwood and Charleston. By Steve Neavling

Update: Suspected arsonist has been charged.

House by house, the remains of an impoverished, blighted neighborhood near the Palmer Park Golf Course began to go up in smoke.

Since May 20, at least 23 vacant houses and three abandoned apartments were intentionally set ablaze in a 15-block area bounded by Woodward and East 7 Mile, according to records compiled by Motor City Muckraker.

On Monday morning, after more than 50 firefighters saturated the area to battle five overnight fires, authorities arrested a suspect who they believe is responsible for many– if not all – of the recent arsons in the area.

Investigators say the suspect may be formally charged today.

The arsons shared a common trait: The fires burned so quickly that firefighters stationed a few blocks away stood no chance of saving the original house. Some of the fires spread to two and three homes, destroying houses occupied by seniors. Four blazes were so fierce that they prompted second alarms.

We’ve documented the arsons since they began May 20, when five houses and an apartment building were intentionally set ablaze.

Authorities had information on the suspect as early as June 6 but firefighters couldn’t get police or arson investigators to respond because both are drastically understaffed.

All photos by Steve Neavling.

Marked "Home Depot," this house at 167 W. Robinwood was destroyed by fire on June 22.
Before & After: Marked “Home Depot,” this house at 167 W. Robinwood was destroyed by fire on June 22.
One house was destroyed and another damaged on the 400 block of W. Hollywood on June 6.
One house was destroyed and another damaged on the 400 block of W. Hollywood on June 6.
The remains of this house on Charleston were still smoldering Monday evening.
The remains of this house on Charleston were still smoldering Monday evening.
An arsonist struck this apartment building at least three times in the past month.
An arsonist struck this apartment building at least three times in the past month.
Robert Jurseau lives on at W. Robinwood and Woodward, where an arsonist destroyed more than a dozen homes on one block.
Robert Jurseau lives on at W. Robinwood and Woodward, where an arsonist destroyed more than a dozen homes on one block.
Fire gutted this home on May 20.
Fire gutted this home on May 20.
A rare occupied house on this block of W. Robinwood narrowly escaped damage when the neighboring home was burned on May 20.
A rare occupied house on this block of W. Robinwood narrowly escaped damage when the neighboring home was burned on May 20.
Fire flattened this house on W. Robinwood.
Fire flattened this house on W. Robinwood.
Another W. Robinwood home was flatted by a suspicious fire.
Another W. Robinwood home was flatted by a suspicious fire.

 

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.

  • Marian Pyszko

    No one cared about Marabel….. no one cared… and Detroit is still burning….

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8_ap5GRopHs

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kCT_g_n61gY

    • bebow

      She was unselected, and it’s difficult for decent, moral people to choke that designation down when considering residents on an individual basis.

    • muckraker_steve

      Wow. That was powerful. Thanks for sharing.

    • queenie1

      Heartbreaking

  • bebow

    A lot of money could have been saved if the arsonist had been caught, like the downtown grafitti vandals, 99 fires ago.

  • Local Dawg

    Sounding like they may have caught the right guy, but we can’t expect
    that 1 guy caused all the destruction around here. So although this is
    good news, they need to continue investigating…. There are a bunch that appear to be Insurance jobs……..