OKEECHOBEE COUNTY, Fla. - Deputies with the Okeechobee County Sheriff's Office have arrested a man in connection with a series of 'suspicious' fires in Okeechobee County that date back to 2008.
Dallas Wayne Parker, 18, was arrested Tuesday and charged with arson of a dwelling in the first degree, a felony. While detectives believe he is responsible for several fires in the Okeechobee area, the sheriff's office only had probable cause to charge Parker with a single incident.
According to investigators, Okeechobee County has been plagued by a series of fires since 2008, which started in the Treasure Island Subdivision. Deputies said Parker lived near all of the homes that were set ablaze and he was listed as a suspect for each case.
In February and March of this year, the Okeechobee County Fire Department, the Florida state fire marshal and the sheriff's office began investigating a series of fires classified as arson in the subdivision of Pine Ridge Park, which is located in the northeast section of Okeechobee County.
"As a result of these fires, the Okeechobee County Sheriff's Office along with the state fire marshal has been forced to expend great amounts of money and manpower patrolling, non-stop, the area to prevent further fires and violence," Detective Greg Gilkey said in an arrest report.
Residents of the area began conducting patrols, causing conflict between them and Parker, the report states.
When detectives began investigating a fire that destroyed an unoccupied mobile home on Feb. 27 at 1072 NE 30th Terrace, they spoke to a witness that said Parker lived nearby, according to the arrest report.
The witness told detectives that she was with Parker three weeks before the fire and that he pointed to the mobile home and said he could break into it and cover his tracks by setting it on fire, the report states.
On the night of the fire, multiple witnesses who live nearby the mobile home said they heard a loud bang and saw Parker behind the mobile home wearing a white tank top, according to the report.
When detectives spoke with Parker about the incident, he said he was not at the scene, but was with his mother who had become ill and was taken to the hospital. Parker's girlfriend told detectives that he was with her and not at the scene of the fire, which is a statement she later changed, the arrest report states.
Detective Gilkey said this case is still under investigation and the sheriff's office is still fielding anonymous tips and witnesses who claim Parker has been bragging about setting multiple fires.
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