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Fugitive Arsonist Arrested in Fla.

June 10, 1998

SEATTLE (AP) _ Maybe it was the name. Maybe it was his size. Maybe a bigger-than-life guy like Sam Castle just couldn’t stay hidden forever.

Darion Northrup ``Sam″ Castle, an arsonist sought for 21 years, was arrested Tuesday in a suburb of Seattle, far from the Florida court that convicted him in a 1970 boat explosion that killed his girlfriend.

Castle, 63, was living under the alias Mark Bradfield, the name of the Palm Beach prosecutor who handled his case, the FBI said.

The arrest followed a ``long-term investigation,″ but officials said they knew little of his activities for the past two decades, though there had been unconfirmed sightings in British Columbia, Alaska and the Netherlands.

Castle was convicted of arson and other charges for the explosion that killed Mary Patricia Kirby. Authorities said Castle, who was in the middle of a custody battle with his wife, and Kirby, an exotic dancer, conspired to burn the boat, which belonged to Castle and was insured for $15,000.

Castle was not charged in Kirby’s death.

After his conviction, Castle was released pending a series of appeals. But when the U.S. Supreme Court denied his petition for an appeal in 1977, he failed to appear to begin serving his 10-year sentence, the FBI said.

Authorities in 1992 told the (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) Sun-Sentinel’s weekly magazine Sunshine that Castle, 6-foot-7 and 275 pounds, was the son of a wealthy Hawaii family with connections to the Dole pineapple fortune.

In 1967, he had talked of sailing to Hawaii with his wife and daughter on the 28-foot ketch he had built himself. Its name, Kuewa, means ``vagabond.″ But soon they divorced, and his troubles began.

Seven years after Castle disappeared, a ``Sam Coleman″ _ a giant of a man like Castle _ was arrested in British Columbia on an immigration violation.

The worst snowfall in years had buried Washington, D.C., slowing FBI agent Sam Cavanaugh, who did not reach Vancouver in time to prevent the man’s release.

``Because of his size, he’s kind of hard to miss,″ Cavanaugh told the magazine.

A tip that a woman living near Seattle might be Castle’s wife led investigators to set up surveillance, FBI spokesman Dick Thurston said.

The woman acted suspiciously, driving as if she were being followed and changing her clothes often, one way to shake off surveillance, Thurston said. Authorities followed her to Castle, he said. He did not say whether she was his wife.

The magazine said that Castle’s former wife and daughter when he lived in Florida moved to California and never heard from him again, the magazine said.

``That stands out as probably the most interesting case I ever had,″ Bradfield told the magazine. ``Sam Castle was a classic.″

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