Re­port: Ar­son sus­pect set fires be­fore at­tend­ing re­union

Antelope Valley Press (Sunday) - - News -

MILPITAS (AP) — A sus­pected ar­son­ist trav­eled from Mis­souri to North­ern Cal­i­for­nia to set more than a dozen wild­fires be­fore at­tend­ing his 50th high school re­union, a news­pa­per re­ported Satur­day.

A for­mer class­mate told the San Jose Mer­cury News that Fred­die Owen Gra­ham ap­peared happy at the party on Sept. 21. Gra­ham, a Milpitas-na­tive who has lived in the Kansas City area for the past three decades, didn’t seem trou­bled or up­set, Rich San­toro said.

“He was ex­cited to come. I talked to him five or six times dur­ing the night. He was happy he was there. He told me, ‘I didn’t ex­pect to have this much fun.’ ” San­toro said. “It turns out he had al­ready set the fires.”

State fire in­ves­ti­ga­tors said Gra­ham gave them a dif­fer­ent im­pres­sion.

Af­ter he was ar­rested at the air­port in San Jose, Gra­ham told them he was in an “emo­tional” state over the loss of his wife in 2018 when he tossed flam­ing pieces of pa­per onto the side of a road.

“Be­cause she passed away and could not be with him, it made him emo­tional, start­ing the fires,” the Cal­i­for­nia Depart­ment of Forestry and Fire Pro­tec­tion re­port said.

San­toro re­called Gra­ham lament­ing about at­tend­ing the re­union with­out his wife.

Gra­ham is be­ing held on $2 mil­lion bail on 13 counts of ar­son. He also faces two spe­cial counts of ar­son dur­ing a state of emer­gency, which was de­clared by Gov. Gavin New­som in March ahead of the wild­fire sea­son.

Pros­e­cu­tors said he drove through a foothill area north­east of San Jose and set 13 fires over the course of two days.

Al­though the fires caused no in­juries or struc­tural dam­age, they took dozens of fire­fight­ers us­ing air­craft, bull­doz­ers and other equip­ment hours to ex­tin­guish.

Gra­ham was iden­ti­fied as the sus­pect af­ter some­one saw him, wrote down his rental car’s li­cense plate num­ber and no­ti­fied fire­fight­ers. He was ar­rested when he was re­turn­ing a rental car at the air­port — his sec­ond of the week­end, af­ter re­port­edly swap­ping out the one seen by a wit­ness at the fire.


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