Main Content


Thomas Sweatt: Inside the mind of DC's Most Notorious Arsonist


By John M. Malecky October, 2019

Thomas Sweatt:
Inside the Mind of DC’s Most Notorious Arsonist
By Jonathan Riffe

Available from:
FSP Books & Videos
188 Central Street, #4
Hudson, MA 01749-1330

(Also available wherever books are sold.)

Price: $19.95

This is a hard cover book measuring 5 ½ inches by 8 inches with 173 pages. It is a different kind of read in one respect; it's told in the words of the arsonist himself! In other words, in “first person.”

The background is that between 1980 and 2005, this serial arsonist terrorized neighborhoods throughout Washington DC and its metropolitan area. His arrest came in 2005 after having set hundreds of fires, some deadly. Though many tried to contact this man in prison, none were successful except for our author. He has a long list of credentials, including being an officer in a career fire department and a chief in a volunteer one. He talked and wrote to this arsonist for three years, although he never visited with him. To read what this criminal wrote and how detailed his mind was to recall all of the incidents is mind boggling!

In my many past years in the fire service, and even before becoming a firefighter, I read and studied a number of arson books which involved investigation and case histories. These were some of the most interesting books I’ve ever read during my career. One reason is certain…it was to become a detective while also being a firefighter! The cases could not have been made up, they were so far out.

To the average reader the mind of this arsonist is unbelievable, especially by what prompted him and sparked his interest to set fires. To one in the psychological profession, the content of these letters would probably be routine. There are color photos of the man and some of the burnouts, as well as a map of locations linked to his fires. The text of his letters ends at page 97 with the rest of the book comprised of the list of admitted fires, the court transcript of the guilty plea and the court transcript of the sentencing.

This is a book you will not soon forget reading, and one that will continually cause you to shake your head when recalling the stories!

avatar image
John MaleckySenior Columnist

No information from the author.