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Reward Grows To $30K In Heidelberg Project Arson Case

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The Heidelberg Project's House of Soul burned to the ground in a case of suspected arson. (Credit: Mike Campbell/WWJ Newsradio 950)

The Heidelberg Project’s House of Soul burned to the ground in a case of suspected arson. (Credit: Mike Campbell/WWJ Newsradio 950)

DETROIT (WWJ) - Someone stands to gain a huge reward for providing information that leads to the arrest and conviction of whoever is responsible for several cases of arson at Detroit’s Heidelberg Project.

A private donor is offering a $25,000 for information in the case, in addition to the $5,000 offered by the Michigan Arson Prevention Committee.

Eight fires have been set at the Heidelberg Project since May, and experts with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives – with the help of the Detroit Fire Department Arson Unit – have determined each fire was the work of an arsonist.

There have been no arrests in the case.

Last Sunday, Dec. 9, someone set fire to the Clock House, destroying all but one of the home’s wall.

Early in the morning of Nov. 28, the War House — on Elba Street near Mt. Elliott — was set aflame, and a person in dark clothing was seen running from the scene. The house was completely destroyed.

A week earlier, on Nov. 21, the Penny House was leveled by fire. Despite a quick response, firefighters were unable to contain the flames as they dealt with low water pressure. After that incident, police talked to someone identified as a person of interest, although that person was not arrested or charged.

On Nov. 12, fire completely ravaged the House of Soul, which was covered in hundreds of old vinyl albums.

In October, fire consumed what remained of the Obstruction of Justice House, which was heavily damaged by fire in May.

Two other small fires were also reported earlier in October, which caused smoke damage to the Penny House and the Numbers House.

After the devastating fire at the House of Soul, organizers announced a plan for heightened security, including nightly neighborhood patrols. They also planned to improve lighting in the area and eventually place security cameras throughout the project.

ATF Special Agent Donald Dawkins said the public could be the difference maker in solving this case.

“We know someone knows,” Dawkins told WWJ Newsradio 950. “We know … someone knows the person or persons that, you know, committed this crime. We’d just like them to come forward.”

Any information may be reported by calling the Heidelberg Project Tip Line at 313-428-1762 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-SPEAK-UP.

Organizers are also accepting donations from the public to help with security costs and other expenses to clean up the rubble. For more information, visit www.heidelberg.org.

The Heidelberg Project — an exhibit that converts abandoned homes into art — is a popular destination for locals and visitors, and has been featured in numerous films and TV shows. Artist Tyree Guyton has described the project as an open-air art environment where discarded objects are used to create a two-block area full of color, symbolism and intrigue.

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