Originally created 06/11/04

Two suspects make 'admissions'

CUMMING, Ga. - Two men suspected in a string of metro Atlanta fires made "some admissions" during questioning by police, and items stolen from several of the burned buildings were found in one of their homes, investigators said Thursday.

The details were released after a judge ordered Brandon Marty Cook, 25, and Raymond Chad Hansard, 20, held without bail pending a probable cause hearing July 22. The men, shackled and wearing orange prison jumpsuits, did not enter pleas at a brief hearing in Forsyth County Magistrate Court.

Fifty arson fires have been set in Fulton, Gwinnett and Forsyth since April 3, and all were similar in terms of origin and items found in the buildings that were used to start the fires, according to a police affidavit.

Thursday's hearing was related to charges for only one of the fires - a blaze at a business in Suwanee. Police said afterward that they planned to file burglary and arson charges against the men for five more of the fires. Charges related to the remaining fires were being considered. No other suspects were being sought, police said.

No motive for the fire spree has been given, though the police affidavit said an acquaintance of Mr. Hansard overheard him say a week before he was arrested that "he was setting houses on fire and watching the police run ragged."

Also, two cell phones stolen from a YMCA where one of the fires occurred were later used to make prank calls.

"Were they going out there to have a good time? I sure hope nobody would consider this a good time," Forsyth County sheriff's Capt. Ron Freeman said.

The suspects made "some admissions" during several hours of questioning Wednesday but did not give a clear motive, Capt. Freeman said at a news conference Thursday. He added that police "recovered a large amount of stolen property" at one of the suspects' homes and at a second building.

Mr. Hansard's lawyer, Jeffrey Purvis, said his client will fight the charges. He said he hasn't seen the statements that his client allegedly made to police.

"All I know is there was an alleged statement made," Mr. Purvis said. "I have no idea what that statement contained. I don't know whether they were read their rights, whether they were properly read their rights and whether they properly waived those rights."

Mr. Cook was not represented by a lawyer in court. A lawyer he told the judge has represented him in the past, Ken Vanderhoff, did not return a call seeking comment. Calls to the suspects' homes were not answered.

The two men were arrested Wednesday in connection with a burglary and fire at Nitta Corp. in Suwanee. Mr. Hansard was identified in surveillance video wearing a gas mask during the burglary, the police affidavit says. The other man in the video, wearing a hat and a bandanna over his face, fit Mr. Cook's description, the affidavit says.

An arrest warrant says a laptop computer, $400 in cash, power tools, a pair of sunglasses and an audio cassette were stolen from the business.

Both men have been in trouble before.

Court records show Mr. Cook was arrested in December for possession of methamphetamine and that Mr. Hansard was arrested then for hunting deer at night. Mr. Hansard was on probation at the time of his arrest in the fire spree case. Magistrate Judge Barbara Cole said Mr. Hansard violated his probation by being arrested.


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