Police: Serial arsonist admits to setting fires

MARCUS HOOK, Pa. - November 4, 2010

Police say the suspect was caught red-handed early Thursday morning trying to set another fire. Since his capture, authorities say he has admitted to being the serial arsonist that had kept many residents on edge in Marcus Hook for 8 months.

Action News was the only newsteam there when 24-year-old Christopher Sargent was hauled in for his arraignment later in the day in Linwood. He's a man everyone knew for always riding around on his bike, but who apparently had a secret penchant for setting fires.

"We've been conducting a lot of surveillance and last night we were able to catch the suspect in the act, caught setting a fire," Marcus Hook Police Chief John Ireland said.

Police say since March 16th, the firebug had torched homes, garages, mattresses, trash cans, just about anything that he could ignite with a lighter.

All 9 arson fires were set in the early morning hours when many were sleeping and all were set within a 2 block area.

The arsons included two story twin homes on East 9th Street which were torched in March and then again in August after they had been repaired.

In both cases, a 14-year-old girl had to be rescued by police through a window.

On Wednesday night, police got their break when they allegedly caught Sargent trying to ignite an old John Kerry/John Edwards campaign poster mounted on a garage wall.

"It was the greatest call I got at 2:30 this morning from my chief saying, 'ahh, we got him.' So that was a good feeling," Marcus Hook Mayor Jay Schiliro said.

Meanwhile, there was a big sigh of relief among residents, but also surprise about the person suspected.

"The last person in the world I would expect that did that, I never would have expected him, I'm just glad it's over with," resident William Curry said.

"I knew him since we grew up. It's just, you never think something like this would happen with a person like that," resident Jay Honn said.

Sargent has been charged with 9 counts of arson, risking a catastrophe, reckless endangerment, and related charges. He is being held at the George Hill Correctional Facility in lieu of $250,000.

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