A Columbia townhouse fire that left a 19-year-old woman in critical condition was set by her mother's spurned ex-boyfriend, Howard County police said yesterday.
Scott Allen Pryor, 44, was arrested early yesterday in Edgewood, Harford County, and charged with multiple counts of attempted murder, arson, assault and burglary.
Pryor had lived in the Long Reach townhouse for three years until last week, said Greta Val- denegro, a neighbor in the 5700 block of Flagflower Place, in the 35-year-old Heritage Walk development. "That is awful. I am so sorry to hear that. That is evil," Valdenegro said.
Injured in the blaze was Breanna Alman, who may have been sleeping when the fire began in the living room just before 8 a.m. Monday. Her mother, Sheryl Alman, 46, had left for work.
Breanna Alman was found unconscious on the floor of the two-story brick house after firefighters gained entry by breaking a small window next to the locked front door. She remained in critical condition yesterday from burns and smoke inhalation at the burn center of Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.
A friend, Andrew Christopher Lee, 20, who was also in the house, escaped through a second-floor window.
Howard County police said Pryor had moved to Essex after his breakup with Sheryl Alman, but they say that he returned to the Columbia house at 7:40 a.m. Monday and spread an accelerant on the living-room floor. Police said witnesses saw him leaving the house before the fire started.
The fire caused an estimated $500,000 damage to the structure and its contents, according to Department of Fire and Rescue Services spokesman Bill Mould, though little damage except for boarded windows could be seen yesterday. Mould said police, fire and federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives investigators worked on the case.
Jose Valdenegro, 28, who lives in a similar house across a narrow pedestrian court from the burned dwelling, said he had occasionally chatted with Sheryl Alman and Pryor, who seemed friendly.
Valdenegro said he looked out his front window Monday morning and saw thick, black smoke pouring from the house and several neighbors banging on the front door.
"I threw some clothes on and ran over," he said, and then saw Lee's hand emerge from a low second-floor open window.
"He was crawling, and I just kind of jumped up and grabbed his hand and pulled him out and down, and caught him. He was kind of incoherent," he said.
Valdenegro said he could hear smoke detectors shrieking inside. He said he ran to another neighbor's house to help get a ladder to try to find Breanna Alman, but then county firefighters arrived and brought her out.
"She was covered head to toe in black soot," and was unconscious, he said. "I'm just kind of blown away. It's horrible."
Pryor was being held yesterday in the Howard County Detention Center, police said.