Arson investigators look for clues in string of fires

As of Tuesday, there have been 116 deliberately set fires in Indianapolis.
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INDIANAPOLIS - A second person has died from a suspicious fire set early Tuesday morning.

47-year-old Jerry Richards, a quadriplegic, and his mother, 63-year-old Anna Richards, were pulled from their burning home.

Anna died Tuesday. Two days later, her son lost his battle as arson investigators came to Eyewitness News asking to look at our video in search of any clues that could lead them to the person who set the fires.

13 Investigates shows you a disturbing and growing number of fires and why so many neighbors are worried.

"That's just sad that someone needs to do that," said Evan Lewis, pointing to the burned out vacant house in the 2500 block of 9th Street.

It was Lewis who said he called 911 after investigating flames from a garbage fire shooting up across the street.

"We were going to try to put it out, then we noticed that the house was on fire," he told 13 Investigates.

Lewis says a little blaze in a corner quickly got out of control, but he says he didn't get burned.

"It was about a ball of fire maybe just about this big. Then all of a sudden you could just see orange glow all over the back of the house," he explained, describing the scene early Tuesday.

Investigators can't say if any of the seven fires that erupted that morning resulted from pyromaniacs looking for excitement or to bolster an ego.

But 13 Investigates has learned the city has uncovered a disturbing pattern from crime data obtained so far this year.

As of Tuesday, there have been 116 deliberately set fires, creating a ring around the city and causing more than $1.9 million in damage.

The city's top hotspot is the southeast side, where 37 fires have been ruled arsons. The northeast side is second with 30, followed by the north side with 22 cases.

Vacant houses are the number one target. But surprisingly enough, fires set to occupied houses aren't far behind with 25.

It appears arsonists have favorite days and times to commit their crimes. Generally, Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays are big burn days. Wednesdays are more likely to be an off day.

But overall the crimes are usually occurring between midnight and 3:00 am.

That's the time Evan Lewis made the 9th Street discovery.

"I wish we could have got them over here before they started," he added.

With more police dedicated for lookout, they're hoping to increase the number of arson arrests already at ten this year.

See all arson and fire investigations Jan-May, 2011