Police: Quincy man admits setting fires

Police: Quincy man admits setting fires

1 November 2007

published by ledger.southofboston.com

USA — A North Quincy man with a history of arson arrests has confessed tosetting a string of brush fires in the Blue Hills and starting fires in marshesand trash bins, police said.

Ralph I. Marple III, 32, of 100 Faxon Road, told police he started a woods firein September that closed Chickatawbut Road in the Blue Hills Reservation for twodays, according to a police report.

Marple talked to detectives after his arrest Monday night on charges that hestarted fires in two trash bins belonging to City Bank and the Fashion Bug nearthe Hannaford supermarket on Hancock Street in Quincy.

He pleaded innocent at his arraignment Tuesday in Quincy District Court, and hewas held without bail pending a dangerousness hearing.

A 20-day evaluation of Marple began Wednesday. Kevin Bowe, spokesman for NorfolkCounty District Attorney William Keating, would not say what kind of evaluationis being done or where.

Marple, who works at the Hannaford on Hancock Street, was convicted of setting afire in a two-car garage May 11, 2006, on Sea Street near Curlew Road.

He was given a two-year suspended sentence on the condition that he continue ina counseling program and remain employed.

Marple was charged with setting fires that damaged two rooming houses onPresident’s Lane and Monroe Road in 1991.

In March, the home of one of Marple’s neighbors burned.

Marple told The Patriot Ledger at the time that he noticed smoke coming from therear of 94 Faxon Road and dialed 911.

Marple told investigators that he had started fires in trash bins and trashbarrels throughout Quincy, according to a police report.

He confessed to starting ‘‘about a dozen’’ fires in the Blue Hills, andto setting fires in the marsh near the Quincy Youth Hockey Arena and in woods atFaxon Park, a report written by Quincy Police Detective Brian Coen said.

Detectives in unmarked police cars were watching for drug activity on HancockStreet near the location of the trash bin fires on Monday night.

An officer on routine patrol discovered the fires and reported them on hispolice radio shortly after 10 p.m.

Around the same time, one of the detectives with the drug control unit saw a manlater identified as Marple talking on a cell phone in the parking lot of theMcDonald’s restaurant at 274 Hancock St. in North Quincy. He was looking inthe direction of the fire station on Hancock Street, the police report said.

Marple got in his car and drove south on Hancock Street when a fire engine leftthe station on its way to the trash bin fire, according to the report.

A detective checked the license plate on the Pontiac Grand Am and found it wasregistered to Marple.

Marple turned right onto Woodbine Street, made a U-turn and returned to HancockStreet, where he headed north past the trash bin fires, according to the report.

‘‘Marple repeatedly traveled by the fire scene as he made a series of turnsand U-turns as he continuously reversed directions … passing the fire scenefor a total of five times,’’ Coen’s report said.

While watching Marple, a detective checked his criminal record and found that hehad been found guilty of burning buildings twice. according to the report.

Detectives followed Marple when he turned onto Willet Street and onto RawsonRoad, where they believe he realized he was being watched, the report said.

Coen turned on his blue lights to stop Marple, but he continued driving, pullinginto a garage behind his Faxon Road home.

Marple was shaking and his voice trembled when detectives confronted him, Coenreported.

Coen said he used a ruse, telling Marple he had been recorded on surveillancetapes that night, and that he responded, ‘‘Well if you have tapes, yeah, Idid it,’’ and admitted to starting the trash bin fires.

Two lighters were found in Marple’s vehicle, according to the report.

Coen reported that firefighters believed some kind of accelerant was used in thefires.

Experts say arsonist is often a youth with problem

By The Patriot Ledger staff

Arsonists are very likely to be juveniles with emotional and other problems,experts say.

‘‘It’s a young person’s crime,’’ Dr. John Hall, assistant vicepresident for fire analysis and research at the National Fire ProtectionAssociation in Quincy, said.

Hall said about half of the people who set blazes are youths who may becompensating for physical or sexual abuse in their homes. They may also havelearning disabilities and ignite fires to act out their frustrations.

‘‘You have to identify these kids early – when they are 9 or 10,’’ StateTrooper Paul Zipper, an arson investigator for the state Fire Marshal’s office,said.

Both Hall and Zipper said they could not comment directly about the recentarrest of a 32-year-old North Quincy man who police said has admitted that hehad started a number of brush and Dumpster fires in the area.

Adults setting fires usually have other agendas, Hall and Zipper said.

The reasons include arson for profit, revenge, racial motivation, thrill seeking,concealing a crime, social protest and extremism.

‘‘They may not have a rational motive for what they are doing,’’ saidZipper, who has been investigating suspicious fires for 15 years.‘‘Oftentimes they will have a reason, but it doesn’t make sense to therest of us.’’

Zipper said over the years he has arrested about a dozen people who wereconsidered serial arsonists.

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