ST. PETERSBURG - When houses in the Causeway Isle Neighborhood of St. Petersburg started burning down back in late 2011 -- and more places were hit in the ensuing year and a half -- investigators figured it was something of an inside job.
"It was a strong belief all along in this case that the likely culprit was somebody who resided very close in that immediate area," said Mike Puetz with the St. Petersburg Police
So close -- in fact -- that once police started questioning folks in the areas around a thrice-hit house at 181 79th Street South, they began of focus on the 26-year-old dog-sitter who lived right next door at 161 79th, Jessica Bianca Sowick.
No one at the home wanted to speak with us today, but investigators say their communication with Sowick raised red flags from the beginning. And when they learned of suspicious arsons in areas where she used to live, they started to look at her more carefully. They also installed a surveillance camera next door, which paid off with a series of shots Friday night -- clearly showing Jessica scrawling something on the wall.
"There was a specific message to the detective that she would never be caught," said Police spokesman Puetz. "There was just a lot of references made to the arsons that we believe that this is a good possibility that the person has been responsible for committing a lot of this stuff in the neighborhood."
While Sowick is charged with only the burglary and vandalism from last weekend right now, police are calling her a suspect in the arsons -- and say it could be only a matter of time before she's slapped with many more charges. Neighbors who never knew her well are understandably uneasy.
"Maybe my dogs would run over to their dogs while they were walking. I didn't know them personally," said Zack Loebenburg, whose house sites right next to a vacant lot where a house burned to the ground. "It's pretty sick."