A 42-year-old man with prior arson convictions in other states has been in the Tarrant County Jail for a month, accused of setting fires in the Historic Southside neighborhood, fire investigators said.
George Wayne Reibert has been formally charged with arson in two fires that burned vacant houses on Aug. 28. He is a suspect in as many as 13 fires, investigator Brad Sims said Thursday.
Reibert was arrested on Oct. 14 and has been in jail since then with bail set at $250,000.
The neighborhood just southeast of downtown Fort Worth was formerly called Terrell Heights.
According to arrest warrant affidavits for Reibert, written by arson and bomb investigator M.B. Sims, on Aug. 28, a fire was reported at 4:57 p.m. in a vacant house at 1308 South Freeway and then at 5:47 p.m. in a vacant house at 720 Kentucky Ave.
There were “indications of homeless traffic in and around the houses,” and investigators determined both fires were started in the backs of the houses, Sims wrote.
A neighbor of the Kentucky Avenue house gave investigators surveillance video that showed a man in a baseball cap carrying something in his left hand that looked like a notebook and something in his right hand.
The man walked into the back yard of the Kentucky house at 5:06 p.m. and, four minutes later, he left the house and walked north.
Investigators also got video footage from a Jack in the Box on the northbound service road of Interstate 35W at 1001 South Freeway, close to the first fire. At 5 p.m. the man was there, carrying the same things in his hands.
Investigators also obtained footage from a 7-Eleven store where the man bought a soft drink.
The images were shown to people in the neighborhood and at the Presbyterian Night Shelter at 2400 Cypress St., which is just north of the neighborhood and within walking distance.
A staffer identified the man as Reibert, and said he had been staying there but had moved out the day before.
“She said he admitted on his entrance paperwork that he had gone to jail in the past for setting a former employer’s mobile home on fire,” according to the affidavit.
The staffer said he carried a red notebook or folder containing his paperwork.
The arsonist had a “very identifiable and very similar MO,” Sims said.
Investigators learned that Reibert was on parole for an arson conviction in Louisiana. Officers found Reibert at an apartment in the 5100 block of Brentwood Stair Road and on Oct. 14 arrested him on a Louisiana parole revocation warrant.
Reibert told investigators he had been convicted of arson in Louisiana and Oklahoma.
His case was accepted by the Tarrant County district attorney’s office on Friday.