After weeks of questions and fear, authorities announced the arrests of two men, within hours of each other, connected to a series of arsons in the Coatesville area Thursday.
Roger Leon Barlow’s arrest came first, easing the fears of many in the Chester County community.
The 19-year old Downingtown teen was charged Thursday with nine Coatesville fires purposely set between January 2nd and February 3rd of this year.
Chester County District Attorney Joseph Carroll called Barlow a pyromaniac who liked to watch things burn. But investigators said right now they aren't sure of the motive in this case.
The DA said the fires Barlow is connected to, which include the worst case where 15 homes on the same block were torched:
- are not gang-related
- don't appear to be hate crimes
- didn't target one person
Here are the incidents Barlow confessed to according to court documents:
- Jan. 2 – 128 N. Fifth Ave., porch fire
- Jan. 2 – 205 W. Diamond St., porch furniture fire
- Jan. 6 – 458 Oak St., occupied house fire
- Jan. 12 – 15 N. Church St., occupied house fire
- Jan. 17 – 228 W. Diamond St., occupied house fire
- Jan. 17 – 218 W. Lincoln Highway, house fire
- Jan. 24 – 300 block of Fleetwood St., 15 rowhomes burned
- Jan. 24 – 114 N. 4th Ave., trash fire
- Feb. 3 – 114 Chester Ave., house fire
Great team work and good old-fashioned police work helped closed the case. Laurie Magid, U.S. Attorney for Eastern Pennsylvania said it was a model task force.
“These guys were working 24/7. These are guys who are living on Ramen noodles, from what I can tell.”
The people of Coatesville have paid a tremendous emotional price, investigators acknowledged in their late afternoon news conference. With 23 fires in 37 days this year, some residents were so scared they could hardly sleep.
ATF Special Agent Mark Potter said Coatesville can sleep easier now, and the task force will stay put. There have been 18 arsons in Coatesville this year and 26 last year. While Barlow is connected to some of the incidents, investigators said the task force has a lot more work to do.
Investigators then took a person of interest into custody for questioning Thursday night after visiting a home in West Chester.
That person was 20-year-old Mark Gilliam of West Chester, Pa., according to the ATF. Gilliam and Barlow have been described by authorities as close friends.
He was charged with the attempted arson of the Happy Days Family Bistro in Thorndale, Pa. on January 25.
Unlike Barlow, who was charged on the state level, Gilliam is facing federal charges. He is scheduled to appear Philadelphia federal court Friday.
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