Home Yields Only Note; Police Sought Evidence in Serial Arsons

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Byline: Matthew Cella, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The cache of evidence expected to be inside the home, vehicle and workplace of the suspect arrested in connection with nearly 50 arsons was not found, but a few key articles of clothing and a cryptic note were uncovered, law enforcement sources said yesterday.

The sources said the note found inside the home of suspect Thomas A. Sweatt, 50, simply stated: "Thomas Sweatt is a sick man."

Mr. Sweatt reportedly has confessed to setting a string of fires in Maryland, the District and Virginia that began in March 2003 and involved 47 houses, a vehicle and an attempted arson.

No clear motive for the crimes has emerged, but sources said Mr. Sweatt said during questioning that he was driven by "demons" to set the fires.

They also said Mr. Sweatt may have deliberately left behind a pair of blue Marine Corps dress pants that provided a major break in the case at the scene of a Dec. 5 Arlington County fire to throw off investigators.

The pants reportedly yielded a DNA sample that linked him to several other fires.

According to D.C. court records, investigators began conducting surveillance on Mr. Sweatt on April 14 and interviewed him at his job. Mr. Sweatt gave the investigators a DNA sample, and results returned Monday matched those collected from the scenes of three other fires.

Authorities did not release to reporters the details of the Arlington County fire, but The Washington Times reported at the time that investigators thought it was the work of the arsonist.

Mr. Sweatt lived in the 500 block of Lebaum Street SE, a house registered to his sister, Patricia Sweatt, according to property records.

Mr. Sweatt was arrested in Prince George's County on Wednesday and is scheduled to appear in federal court at 10:30 a. …