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Baltimore County man charged with arson after fire destroys Jilly’s restaurant in Pikesville

Baltimore County Police arrested and charged a man with arson after a three-alarm fire destroyed the popular Jilly’s Bar & Grill in Pikesville early Wednesday morning.

David McDermott, 40, who police said lives just blocks from the Reisterstown Road restaurant, was charged with second-degree arson, the department announced in a news release. No injuries were reported from the pre-dawn blaze, which required extra fire crews to extinguish.

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McDermott faces up to 20 years in prison and potentially up to a $30,000 fine if convicted of starting the fire, which caused $2 million in damage, according to charging documents.

The investigation, conducted by officials from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and Maryland State Fire Marshal’s Office, among others, concluded that someone lit four outdoor heaters ablaze and tipped them against the restaurant’s side wall, causing the paneling to quickly catch fire and spread. Officers at the scene who knew McDermott saw him walking in the area of the crime scene, police said.

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McDermott had been issued a no-trespass order earlier in the week and had “made statements that he would be back,” police said. The restaurant’s owner, Scott Reich, told police he believed McDermott set the fire in retaliation, after a confrontation over loitering and trespassing on his property the day before.

McDermott is being held pending a bail review scheduled for Friday afternoon, according to online court records. He waived his right to an attorney at an initial appearance Thursday, the records show.

The fire started about 3:30 a.m. Wednesday and the building collapsed around 4:35 a.m., the Baltimore County Fire Department said. Four additional fire crews were called less than 10 minutes later because the fire was spreading to buildings next door.

The fire was brought under control after about six hours, according to charging documents.

McDermott explained to detectives “in detail” how he turned the heaters on and turned on the igniter, charging documents say. He claimed he put the fire out with chlorine, according to those documents, saying he found a bottle of bleach.

Reich, in a Facebook post, described the fire as a “devastating loss.”

“Our building is gone, and at the moment have no other information to offer … we will be closed until further notice. As more information comes to light, and plans are discussed and determined, we will post and keep all of you up to date,” Reich wrote. "At this time, we’d like to thank everyone for their kind words, prayers, and support.”

Patrons who spoke with The Baltimore Sun Wednesday about the restaurant fire were sad to see it go.

Baltimore County resident Denise Williams said that she was heartbroken, as she and her late mother loved the restaurant’s wings and ribs.

“My heart is literally shattered. I’ve been frequenting that spot for decades,” Williams said. “I could take her to the top restaurants in the city and she would always end the dinner with ‘That was nice, but we could have gone to Jilly’s and had ribs.’ ”

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