East St. Louis arson investigation leads police to person of interest

EAST ST. LOUIS – Investigators are looking for an arsonist who single-handedly wiped out part of an East St. Louis neighborhood.

The same man is behind six or seven fires--maybe more--in just the past two months, sources said.

All of them have been within the same six-block area of between 26th and 32nd streets.

Investigators have identified a person of interest. He's showing no signs of stopping.

The fire at a vacant apartment building at 26th and Louisiana on November 20 was one of the first and maybe the worst.

A half dozen fires have followed in the surrounding blocks:

  • a vacant house on Belleview
  • another on 31st Street – burned twice
  • another vacant house on the same block
  • two vacant homes across the corner from that massive apartment building fire
  • then the last fire, three days ago on Ridge

“It was blazing pretty good, blazing real good,” said Ron Able, who lives two doors down.  “The roof was on fire.  The basement was on fire.”

“Just driving down through the city especially my neighborhood and seeing all the burned up homes,” said Tangela White.  “It’s just sad, like on 26th Street, it’s like they wiped out a whole block.”

Two of them are on her block.

The fires have all been overnight, roughly between 3 and 6 o’clock in the morning, investigators said.

They weren’t sure if the person setting them was purposely targeting vacant buildings or maybe just trying to stay warm.

“They need to catch him; it’s a big threat,” Able said.  “The first thing I thought about, once I saw it burning like that, there could have been a body in there.”

“It’s just concerning no one’s reporting it, calling it in, catching the person. It’s just like somebody’s trying to clear out East St. Louis to me,” White said.

A week after that massive fire, the person of interest was spotted in a convenience store next to the fire scene.  Anyone with information about the person's identity or whereabouts is asked to contact the East St. Louis Fire Department or the Illinois State Fire Marshal’s Office.