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LOCAL : Man Charged on 9 Arson Counts

<i> From Times Staff and Wire Service Reports </i>

A 38-year-old transient was charged this morning on nine counts of arson in connection with the fires that broke out almost simultaneously and caused $2.5 million in damage on a Ventura Boulevard commercial strip in Studio City last week.

John Charles Kellogges faces one count of arson of a structure for each of the eight businesses damaged when three separate fires were started Dec. 26 between the 12100 and 12500 blocks of Ventura Boulevard. A Pier 1 Imports and a Strouds Linen Warehouse were destroyed and six other businesses damaged.

The ninth charge, that of recklessly starting a fire in a structure, was based on several fires in Kellogges’ room at the abandoned Fruitland Motel, 10822 Ventura Blvd. in Studio City. Authorities said it is unknown how long Kellogges had been living there.

Kellogges was arrested the day after the blazes when a customer at a restaurant near the fire scene told police he had encountered a man in the restroom who matched the description of the arson suspect seen running from the fires. Kellogges had matches and a lighter on him when he was arrested, smelled of smoke and some of his clothing had been charred by fire, according to Deputy Dist. Atty. Andrew Diamond said, who added that a motive remains unknown.

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Investigators believe that Kellogges started the fires by igniting flammable merchandise such as bedding, pillows and rattan furniture in the stores that burned.

Investigators declined to discuss statements Kellogges made after his arrest but said he took them to the Fruitland Motel to show them where he was staying and had set fires.

Kellogges, who was scheduled to be arraigned on the charges later today, faces up to 18 years in prison if convicted, Diamond said.


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