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Washington Mayor’s Mother-in-Law Charged with Arson

May 7, 1987

BRENTWOOD, Md. (AP) _ The mother-in-law of Washington, D.C., Mayor Marion Barry Jr. was charged Wednesday with arson in connection with a house fire, Prince George’s County fire officials said.

Polly Harris, 58, of Temple Hills, was taken into custody after a two-month investigation, said fire spokesman Tony DeStefano. Mrs. Harris is the mother of the mayor’s wife, Effi Barry.

DeStefano said the March 1 fire caused $4,500 damage to a single-family home in Clinton. No one was injured.

″The house was a rental property that was occupied by a Mr. Leandrus Reid, and we learned through the investigation that there was some personal association between Mr. Reid and Mrs. Harris,″ said Fire Capt. Dan Jarboe. He said no one was home at the time of the fire.

A neighbor who spoke on condition of anonymity said the house had been vandalized several times before the fire.

Mrs. Harris was arrested at a dress shop in Allentown where she works, authorities said. She was arraigned before a county district court commissioner in Hyattsville and then released on personal recognizance, awaiting a trial date.

The arson charge carries a maximum possible penalty of 30 years in prison, DeStefano said.

Mrs. Harris was accompanied at the arraignment by her daughter and Herbert Reid, attorney for Mayor Barry. Reid refused to discuss the situation.

Barry was not immediately available to comment. No one answered calls to his office or the home of his press secretary Wednesday evening.

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