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Environmental activist arrested in attempted arson in Pasadena

The FBI has arrested an environmental activist in connection with the attempted arson of unfinished town homes in Pasadena in 2006, authorities said Thursday.

Stephen James Murphy, 43, was arrested without incident Wednesday at his home in Arlington, Texas, after being named in a criminal complaint filed last week in U.S. District Court, said FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller.

According to the complaint, the Pasadena Fire Department responded to a construction site on Sept. 19, 2006, and found what it described as a “crude incendiary device” made from cigarettes that had failed to ignite.

Authorities said DNA found on the cigarettes matched Murphy’s DNA, which was in a state Department of Justice database stemming from a previous arrest in California.

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The next day, workers at the site could not start a tractor, where a note had been written in permanent marker that read, “ANOTHER TRACTOR DECOMMISSIONED BY THE E.L.F,” federal officials said. Investigators found that someone had tampered with the tractor’s ignition system.

Federal and local investigators theorized that E.L.F. was shorthand for the Earth Liberation Front, a radical environmental group that has used vandalism and violence, including arson, to further its cause. FBI officials say the attacks, which have occurred nationwide, have caused millions of dollars in property damage.

A federal judge in Texas on Thursday denied bail for Murphy and ordered him transferred to L.A. to face charges in connection with the case.

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andrew.blankstein @latimes.com


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