Police Finally Catch Serial Arson Suspect After Decade of Fire Attacks — and It's Their Former Chief

He had a coded “hit list” hidden on his phone of people who had wronged him, investigators say.

After almost ten years of fire attacks by a serial arsonist, police in Maryland finally have a suspect… and it’s a former Chief of Police.

David M. Crawford, formerly Chief of Laurel Police, was arrested on Wednesday morning for arson and attempted murder, in connection with a series of 12 individual blazes between 2011 and 2020.

According to investigators, the 69-year-old had a coded “hit list” hidden on his phone of people who had wronged him over the years.

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The victims include a former City of Laurel official, three former law enforcement officials, two relatives, two of his former physicians, one neighbor, and even his own stepson, CBS13 reported.

Investigators suspected a serial arsonist as each fire was found to be “incendiary” in nature, meaning no accidental causes could be found.

Any of the attacks — which happened across five separate counties — caught on surveillance cameras also showed a pattern: the attacker would wear a hooded sweatshirt drawn tightly to obscure his face, and douse the targets’ homes or cars in gasoline using gallon cannisters.

He would use a stick wrapped in cloth to set the fires, before escaping in a silver sedan.

The fires were all set around 3 AM, a time when some of the victims and their families were sleeping inside; hence the attempted murder charges.

The big break in the case came late last year when investigators discovered the link between the victims — they’d all had run-ins with Crawford.

In January of this year, a search warrant was executed on Crawford’s home, and “several critical items of evidence” were found, the news release stated.

The fires caused extensive damage, but luckily no-one was ever hurt — which Howard County Fire Chief Bill Anuszewski said was never guaranteed to be the case.

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“While there were no reported injuries to either residents or fire department personnel as a result of these fires, considering the time of day, the very nature of the fires were set the outcome could have been very different,” he said during a joint news conference announcing the arrest. “Thankfully, all the residents in the homes were alerted and able to escape without harm.”

“We’re incredibly grateful to the multiple jurisdictions and departments who worked together to arrest the suspect and potentially stop any future tragedies,” Howard County Executive Calvin Ball added. “Not only were these homes, and residents’  lives put in danger – but the lives of our first responders, firefighters, and police officers around the state were endangered.”

Crawford started his career as a police officer in the 1970s, working his way up to major with Prince George’s County police, then Chief of District Heights PD, then Chief of City of Laurel PD; he resigned from that post in 2010 for unspecified “personal reasons.”

Investigators believe there may be more fires connected to him, too.

Robert Bonsib, Crawford’s lawyer, told CNN on Thursday: “Dave Crawford has a long history of serving his community as a police officer for a large local department and then as Chief of Police for a municipal department. The allegations in the criminal complaint are inconsistent with his long history of public service.”

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