Police searching for arsonist after cars torched in Leesburg overnight

Police searching for arsonist after cars torched in Leesburg overnight (ABC7)

“Uh-oh,” Daren Burr staged-whispered, as he saw his burnt-out BMW for the very first time.

“I just don’t know who would do such a thing like this,” he says. “It don’t make no sense.”

Just yards away, in the same Sterling towing service lot, sits a Jeep Cherokee, with a charred interior.

It was also was set on fire early Thursday, authorities say.

“Actually my daughter woke me up, she saw the cars on fire,” recalls Mario Montaro, the Jeep’s owner. “I say, 'Why me? Why’d they pick my car?' You know?”

It’s a question Loudoun County fire investigators are trying to solve.

They told Montero that someone broke into both cars around two o’clock Thursday morning, poured flammable liquid inside, and set them on fire.

“They force the door open, to whatever they use flammable things, light a fire on both cars,” Montero says matter-of-factly.

The cars were parked about 100 yards apart, in “The Manors” and “Manors East” apartment complexes, off Fort Evans Road NE, in Leesburg.

A neighbor, who wants to remain anonymous, says she heard the Jeep’s car horn blowing, saw smoke, and called 911.

That neighbor also snapped several photographs, sharing them with 7 On Your Side.

Not far away, Bill Redford heard a strange noise and ducked outside.

“I didn’t see anything but I heard two really loud muffled thumps, like someone shooting off a cherry bomb,” he says.

He didn’t find out until later that Burr’s BMW was catching fire

Several parking lots away, as firefighters were putting out Montero’s car, they got an alert about the BMW.

The flames from that blaze were so strong, they charred a pickup in an adjacent parking space, the heat buckling the paint.

Redford is just shocked that someone would deliberately set two cars on fire in his neighborhood.

“It’s just sad,” he said quietly. “Sad that that has to happen, and from what I’m hearing, some sort of random thing, it wasn’t anybody specifically targeted.”

Loudoun County Fire Officials issued a statement saying both blazes were “intentionally set.”

Authorities haven’t released any information about a motive or suspects.

But Montero, who works as a mechanic, says he too, believes the fires were a random act, and that his car wasn’t a target.

He adds he’s lived in the area for years, without any problems with anyone for as long as he can remember.

Montero notes the Jeep is a 1996 model, and has more of a sentimental value to his family than anything else, with memories of family trips and thousands of errands over the years.

“What was the reason?... so random,” says Lissa Smith.

Her sister Silvia is the Jeep’s owner.

“They broke in, I mean the car was locked,” she declares. “They took all the precautions they needed, and (the suspect) just went ahead and did it.”

“I’m scared for my family,” Montero adds. “Because setting a car on fire is a big thing.”

The family says there were important plans for the Jeep.

Their intention was to give the car to Montero’s daughter Rachel, for her 16th birthday.

But not anymore.

Hours after the fire, Smith posted several photos of the torched vehicle to a Facebook group, telling members “my sister and her family are fine, but a little terrified.”

“It was like the middle of the night, and me and my husband were really afraid, really scared,” she remembers.

Loudoun County Fire & Rescue investigators are estimating the damage to all three vehicles at around $15,000.

The department is also asking for anyone with information to contact the County Fire Marshal’s Office.

Both families hope someone comes forward.

“We would like to know what happened,” Smith says.

“I need deep answers, deep answers,” Burr says. “Hopefully whoever did it will be apprehended so this don’t happen to anyone else. It’s crazy.”

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