The Cleveland Firebugs
Joseph Stafford, a lad of 19 years of age, has confessed to having set or helped to set some 54 fires within the last four months in a district of the city less than half a mile square. Assistant Chief Whyler, accompanied by Fire Warden Ferrie and a deputy sheriff, drove the prisoner in an automobile through the Flats while the pointed out the scenes of eight of the fires, for which he and William Shannon, a former member of the fire department, were responsible. As the automobile stopped in front of each building, Stafford explained in detail just how the fires were discovered before they had caused much damage, owing to the error of judgment on the part of the firebugs in using railroad waste too plentifully soaked in heavy axle oil. The dense smoke thus created betrayed the attempt. The two men used gasolene bladders to help in creating a big blaze and spreading the flames. One building they set on fire four times. When brought by his companions in front of a large abandoned brick building, Stafford said his heart failed him at the idea of the big fire that would result if their attempt were successful, and he refused to do the work in spite of blows and abuse from his companion. The fire was, therefore, not set. Stafford’s mother tried to prove that her son was insane, but, on examination, his sanity was established, His remuneration for his exploits in fire raising was from $1.10 to $10. In sentencing Henry Kodera, a confectioner, to six months in the penitentiary for setting fire to his former dwelling, the judge declared his intention of curing the epidemic of arson which had been so long rampant in the city. James Hartulis, his wife and his son have been indicted for setting tire to their home, and are out on heavy hail. More arrests and indictments are expected.