Police: RV lot was torched by employee of owner’s brother
RIVIERA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Bill Waits, the owner of a Florida recreational vehicle dealership, was stunned when an arsonist torched eight of his RVs. He then got an even bigger shock when investigators told him their suspect is a serial arsonist employed by a rival dealership owned by his brother.
Local, state and federal law enforcement are looking for 54-year-old Benjamin Harris, who fled after he was questioned about the Aug. 5 fire at Waits RV Center that caused $350,000 damage, the Palm Beach Post reported . Harris was an employee of Palm Beach RV, which is owned by Waits’ older brother, Larry, officials said.
“He hasn’t called me,” Bill Waits told the newspaper. “We’re competitors, but he’s my brother. I love him.”
No one else from Palm Beach RV has been charged. General manager Keith Waits, Larry Waits’ son, said they are also shocked and did not know Harris has arson convictions for setting more than 30 fires in New York and Florida dating to the 1990s.
“We do now,” Keith Waits said of Harris’ criminal history. Harris served 11 years after being convicted in 2007 and was released in January.
Surveillance video from Waits RV Center shows Harris pulling up to the lot at night wearing a “Palm Beach RV” T-shirt, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s office said. He carried something in his hands as he approached the RVs. He then drove away as the vehicles erupted in flames, authorities said.
Detectives said they questioned Harris two days later at Palm Beach RV, but he refused to talk and demanded to speak to a lawyer. They didn’t have an arrest warrant, so they left. Harris then disappeared and a warrant was issued.
Bill Waits wants to know why his business was targeted.
“Why would you pick us?” Waits said. “Is it a thrill? What’s the deal? I would love to know that answer.”
Information from: The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post, http://www.pbpost.com