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Ohio: 17 Year Old Accused Of Burning Down Sprawl Houses

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Bond set at $1M for suspect in 2 Bedford Township arsons
Lambertville youth caught in stakeout
March 18, 2008

TEMPERANCE - A Lambertville youth accused of arson in the fires that destroyed two unfinished homes in Bedford Township housing developments started the fires to bring attention to the construction of new homes in the area, authorities said.

Michael W. Sykes, 17, who was arrested during last weekend's police stakeout to catch the arsonist responsible for the string of fires in the Lambertville area, was arraigned yesterday in Monroe County District Court.

He pleaded not guilty to one count each of arson and home invasion. Judge Mark Braunlich ordered the teenager held in the county jail in lieu of $1 million bond. He is scheduled to be back in court March 26 for a pretrial hearing.

Young Sykes, who lives with his parents at 7472 Canterbury Drive, was taken into custody about 1:15 a.m. Sunday after he was accused of trying to siphon gasoline from an unmarked Jeep Cherokee as Detective Tom Redmond sat inside the parked SUV.

The arrest occurred during an undercover stakeout in which deputies sat inside unfinished homes in the township in an effort to catch the arsonist who destroyed two homes in separate fires days apart.

In interviews, the teen admitted to setting fires last week to an unoccupied condominium on Fountain Circle in Crystal Waters Villas off Douglas Road and setting a second fire two days later that destroyed a home being built on Brentridge Lane, said Detective Redmond, who also is an arson investigator.

He said the motive behind the teenager's actions was to discourage the construction of new housing developments and curtail the growth of suburbs.

"He was tired of the growth and building of homes in the area," the detective said. "He hates society. He wants to see society fail."

Detective Redmond said the teenager also confessed to taking an ax Friday to an 80-foot utility pole along Sterns Road and stealing an American flag last week from a residence in a subdivision near Sterns and painting the anarchist symbol - the letter "A" inside a circle - on it. The flag was found slightly burned in a wooded area near the suspect's home.

The teen also confessed to a Jan. 12, 2006, arson fire behind the Kroger store at Sterns and Secor roads in Lambertville that destroyed a semi trailer and filled the store with smoke and torching a boat and trailer that same year, authorities said.

Detective Redmond said the investigation began focusing on the Sykes teen after the condo fire in Crystal Water Villas.

He said Detective Heath Velliquette offered him as a possible suspect because of the fire two years ago at Kroger and a fire that was started intentionally in a field several days later in Whiteford Township.

Detectives also connected the recent arson fires and the damaged utility pole through a tread pattern of a tennis shoe print that was left as evidence at the crime scenes.

The sole print matched the shoes that the Sykes youth was wearing at the time of his arrest, they said.

The teenager's mother, Debra Sykes, said yesterday that her son was wrongly being portrayed by the media as a "monster," and instead she said he is a "good kid" who is ill and needs help.

"He loves nature. He loves animals, especially turtles," Mrs. Sykes said.

Under Michigan law, Sykes, though 17, will be prosecuted as an adult. Detective Redmond said additional charges likely will be filed against him.

According to Family Circuit Court records, the Sykes youth, then 15, served 24 days in the county youth center in 2006 for delinquencies in connection with arson, running away from home, and larceny.

The arson charge stems from the fire he set to the field in Whiteford Township, an act he told sheriff's detectives was "because he was tired of seeing all the forest being destroyed," court documents said.

In July, the teenager was sentenced to 20 hours community service and placed on probation by a Family Circuit Court judge for delinquency in connection with misdemeanor disturbing the peace.

The Sykes youth, then a student at Bedford High School, was charged for fighting with another student last May in the cafeteria during lunch.

According to his mother, the teenager transferred last year from the high school to a private school in Toledo.