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Suspected videotape arsonists arrested

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. -- Police arrested two teenagers Friday accused of setting a house aflame and making a videotape of the raging fire narrated by a whispering and maniacally laughing arsonist.

Police spokesman Howard Baker said one of the youths, now 19, confessed to sparking the 1988 fire and filming the chilling tape.

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Detectives linked the teenager to the torching of 11 other structures and ignition of 15 grass fires in a series of arson blazes that scorched parts of Redwood City and San Mateo County south of San Francisco in 1987 and 1988, Baker said. Four of the structure fires caused more than $2 million in damage.

'There's no motive,' Baker said. 'We don't know if there are other suspects involved or not.'

Police arrested the two males early Friday on suspicion of arson for starting the Aug. 15, 1988 videotaped fire that burned to the ground an unfinished house under construction on Colton Court in Redwood City.

A 17-year-old boy was released to the custody of his parents. The 19- year-old was confined at juvenile hall pending a judge's decision on whether he would be tried as a juvenile or adult, Baker said.

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Investigators got 1,600 calls and possible leads from people across the nation after the videotape was shown on the national television program 'Unsolved Mysteries.'

Investigators were given the tape after a family whose car had broken down found it wrapped in an old military fatigue jacket beside Highway 205 near Stockton, Calif. in August 1989.

The tape shows flames consuming a house at night as an eerie voice whispers, 'Ancient spirit of evil. Look at it. The fire department is trying to put it out. What a laugh.'

The unseen narrator, breathing heavily and laughing, spoke to someone named 'Omar.' Some investigators thought it could be a reference to Satan.

'Look at it Omar ... this is what I've been doing all week's vacation ... I said I'll do it, I said I'll do it.'

Along with the videotape and jacket, the family found a skull, a pestle used to crush herbs, and other evidence suggesting satanic rituals and worship.

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