Former USC professor charged with murder and arson in fire spree

A former Los Angeles teaching professor was indicted Thursday in connection with what prosecutors called an arson spree that swept across Southern California, killing a teenager and a man and causing $200,000 in damage…

Former USC professor charged with murder and arson in fire spree

A former Los Angeles teaching professor was indicted Thursday in connection with what prosecutors called an arson spree that swept across Southern California, killing a teenager and a man and causing $200,000 in damage to a neighborhood high school.

Former USC professor Damian Petti, 49, was charged with 26 counts in the arson attacks in 2015, including murder and arson with great bodily injury.

The FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives investigated the fires, which began last February and damaged six buildings on campus and a Los Angeles high school.

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An 18-year-old La Salle High School student was killed when a car crashed into a building while he was helping extinguish a fire. A man died in another arson attack hours later. Firefighters later found the body of a homeless man in a car fire that spread to a car parked in the same neighborhood.

Petti was a professor of ceramics at USC’s Mihaylo College of Art and Design, although he no longer holds that position.

Petti was out of the country when the fires occurred. He was charged with felony murder, arson of an inhabited structure, arson of an inhabited structure causing substantial damage, and two counts of arson of property.

If convicted, Petti faces a maximum of life in prison. He is scheduled to appear in court on Tuesday.

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