4 arrested in blaze at Painters Mill Music Fair Informer's tip said to lead to seizure of suspects.

March 22, 1991|By Joe Nawrozki | Joe Nawrozki,Evening Sun Staff

Baltimore County police said today that four people have been arrested in connection with the arson fire Monday at Painters Mill Music Fair that caused an estimated $4 million in damage.

Two of the suspects, escapees from a state minimum-security prison who were recaptured earlier this week, will be charged with actually setting the fire, police said.

Bradley Spitler, 20, and William Harlow, 20, were being held at the House of Correction in Jessup on escape charges.

The other two, Freddie Lee Ferguson, 28, of the 100 block of Wilgate Road in Owings Mills, and Debra Ann Mann, 23, of the 11000 block of Reisterstown Road, have been charged with breaking into the theater.

They were arrested yesterday and Wednesday by county police, who had been tipped by an informer.

Sgt. Stephen Doarnberger, a police spokesman, said today that Ferguson is being held in lieu of $25,000 at the Garrison District jail. He was arrested yesterday without incident.

Mann, described by police as Ferguson's girlfriend, surrendered police Wednesday at 5 p.m. She has been released on $500 bail.

Doarnberger said Ferguson and Mann are charged with breaking and entering the theater, which stood in Owings Mills for three decades.

According to Doarnberger, two inmates who escaped Sunday from the state central prison laundry in Sykesville will be charged with arson and other related crimes connected to the Painters Mill fire.

The spokesman said the pair were recaptured Tuesday while at a party at a Union Bridge home with some of the beer stolen from the theater. They were rearrested there by State Police.

Doarnberger said Spitler and Harlow also will be charged with theft and burglary of a truck, industrial-size tanks of oxygen and acetylene and a blowtorch used to cut their way into Painters Mill.

The prison camp at Sykesville is about 20 miles south of the Carroll County farm in Hampstead where the vehicle and equipment were stolen, police said.

The escapees apparently made their way to Owings Mills in the truck and got together with two others to rob Painters Mill, police said.

Following the unsuccessful break-in of the safe and outbreak of fire, police said, the four drove to the Union Bridge home of Spitler's sister, where a party commenced. Police who raided the house found beer and a portable radio that were stolen from the Painters Mill theater.

Spitler's sister was not charged.

Doarnberger said today that police arson investigators still don't know if the fire was started accidentally or intentionally.

"We do know that the blowtorch was used to cut through a heavy security screen on a window at Painters Mill and we do know the burglars wanted very much to break into the safe," Doarnberger said.

Edward Snell, a manager at the theater and secretary of Painters Mill Corp., said after the fire that the burglary attempt was futile because no cash or other valuables were kept in the safe since a series of break-ins last June at Painters Mill.

Doarnberger said he did not know if any of those arrested in connection with Monday's fire were originally involved in those break-ins last summer.

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