"Fire starter" is 26-year-old woman, police say - FOX 13 News

"Fire starter" is 26-year-old woman, police say

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Photo courtesy PCSO. Photo courtesy PCSO.
Photo courtesy SPPD. Photo courtesy SPPD.

St. Petersburg police now have suspect in a string of arsons that have terrorized an upscale neighborhood since October 2011. They charged her with residential burglary and vandalism Monday, and by Tuesday she had posted bond, free to return to the home she shares with her mother in the same neighborhood.

According to arrest records, 26-year old Jessica Sowick lives at 161 79th Street South in the Causeway Isles development. St. Petersburg police said Sowick was caught on video Friday night by a hidden camera at 181 79th Street South. That is immediately south of her residence.

It has also been the scene of three arsons. On the video, Sowick allegedly scrawled graffiti messages on the back of the home, including some taunts to detectives.

Similar graffiti was documented at some of the other arson scenes, which may eventually lead to arson charges.

"Graffiti writing is sometimes like handwriting," police spokesman Michael Puetz explained. "It can actually be analyzed, compared."

Puetz also said there are unsolved arsons in places where Sowick has resided in the past, including in Arizona and Pennsylvania. Detectives discovered that while investigating anyone associated with the arsons.

Sowick's alleged involvement is haunting: "In at least two cases…where the houses were basically burned to the ground…she was actually doing dog sitting service for these folks" Puetz said.

One of those cases was last November at 7949 2nd Avenue South. One dog escaped but another perished in that arson.

"I'm surprised it's her, because her and her mom walk their dogs up and down this street," said Mike Jasek, who lives next door to the vacant lot where the house was destroyed, "It's an odd situation -- I'm still trying to grasp it."

The dozen arsons also rattled the neighboring Yacht Club Estates neighborhood.

"It's kind of like the fear, terror aspect of it," past neighborhood association president Tom Garofalo said, "People are suddenly locking up, checking at night, and I think there was just a feeling of unease in the neighborhood that you weren't as safe as you thought."

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