St. Petersburg Times
March 10, 1999
Author: CHRISTOPHER GOFFARD
A teenager blames Prozac for causing him to start a blaze. Other fires throughout the area still are under investigation. Even as investigators probe a rash of arson-related fires, a Port Richey teenager has confessed to using a propane torch Monday night to ignite half an acre of woodlands near San Miguel Drive and Little Road.
Asked why he did it, the 15-year-old told the Times that the Prozac he was taking to control his anger drove him to it.
“I didn’t realize what I was doing, because my medication does that to me,” the Ridgewood High School ninth-grader said Tuesday afternoon. The Prozac, he added, didn’t seem to be helping much. The name and address of the suspect are being withheld by the Times because he has not been charged with a violent crime.
In recent weeks, local authorities have battled a spate of suspicious blazes that, so far, have spared human life and property but burned acres of woodlands. Around noon Tuesday, Pasco County Sheriff’s Office deputies found matches at a small patch of woods that burned near Moon Lake Road and State Road 52 in Moon Lake, Sheriff’s spokesman Kevin Doll said.
Five other small fires in Hudson on Tuesday, scattered from Denton Avenue to County Line Road, are considered suspicious. The teen said he was only responsible for the fire he is accused of starting. Arrested Monday on a charge of unlawful burning of woodlands, he was booked into Land O’Lakes jail and then released to his mother.
Doll said the boy has no previous arrests in Pasco. Detectives are investigating “if he is possibly linked to any other fires,” he said. A Sheriff’s Office report gave this account:
After setting the fire with a 16.4 ounce Coleman propane torch, the teenager called 911 to report it. A deputy found him in the parking lot of an apartment complex nearby. The teen told the deputy he was taking a shortcut through the woods on his sister’s bicycle when he ran into a rock and a lit cigarette fell out of his mouth. Searching for the cigarette, he noticed a shrub was ablaze and tried to smother it with handfuls of dirt.
The deputy asked how a cigarette butt could have started a fire so quickly, and the teenager’s story began to change. He said he had a torch, which he said had fallen into a ditch. When he fell off the bike, he said, the torch might have ignited the shrub. After further prodding, though, he said he started the fire on purpose, claiming “he only wanted to create a small fire and it had gotten out of control.”
Tuesday, when the Times asked him how many fires he has set, the teenager said, “Only one.”
Mid-interview, he hung up the phone.