Arson suspect caught near overnight fire

June 18, 2010 4:28:56 PM PDT
For months, residents in the Kingwood subdivision in northeast Harris County have been nervous after a series of arsons caused millions of dollars in damage. Now they hope the fires will be snuffed out with the arrest of a man who is very familiar to arson investigators.

Matthew Carlyle White, 28, was under surveillance by several agencies. The latest fire he's accused of setting happened late Thursday night on Greensbrook Forest at Greensbrook Garden. He was allegedly caught running away from the flames.

"He was looking like, dang, they done got me," resident Jakeisha Haynes said.

Living just yards from the latest arson fire, Haynes couldn't be more relieved knowing that the man police say may be behind at least 10 recent fires is behind bars.

"Somebody could've got hurt," she said. "I'm just glad he didn't come over here and burn down ours."

Authorities say White was caught red-handed after he was spotted running from the burning home.

Authorities suspect he chose the house because it was under construction, a similar method of operation to several arson fires White pleaded guilty to in 2006.

"Why did you set this fire?" an investigator asked him back then.

"Why? Because I was angry," White responded.

White at the time received 180 days in jail and probation. In 2008, however, he pleaded guilty to DWI. His probation was revoked, and he was sentenced to four years in prison but was released in June of last year.

The release came too early for some of his neighbors.

"I think everyone was concerned when he was around and he got out," said his neighbor, Tammy Ray. "We were all concerned as to why he didn't serve longer the first time."

Investigators say in the recent case, it's fortunate no one was hurt or injured.

The damage, however, is estimated in the millions.

White's arrest is viewed by many as a huge victory for peace of mind.

"I don't know what he thinking," Haynes said. "I'm just so happy that he did not try to set nobody's house somebody is staying in."

White is charged with arson and remains in the Harris County Jail. Authorities say they're still trying to determine the exact number of arson fires to which he may be connected.

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