SAN JOSE -- A man charged Friday with starting a string of fires during a harrowing five-day period confessed to police earlier this week that he had touched them all off with his cigarette lighter -- using paper bags, a plastic glove, roll of carpeting, plant debris and cardboard boxes as kindling, according to court documents released Friday.

Patrick William Brennan, 48, also told police when he was arrested Wednesday -- just three days after the last fire -- that he knew full well several of the homes he torched or tried to torch were occupied, according to the statement of facts in the court file.

The fires caused $6 million in damage, prosecutors said, and terrorized a neighborhood east of downtown. The last fire occurred Sunday and police arrested Brennan three days later, on Wednesday night.

Brennan, who is a registered arson and sex offender, was charged Friday with 13 felony counts in connection with the fires, including a blaze that destroyed a huge warehouse and another that left one couple homeless. His other targets included a portable trailer that the Greater St. John Baptist Church used as a classroom, as well as commercial buildings and homes.

Judge Sharon A. Chatman ordered Brennan held without bail at prosecutor Bud Porter's request on 10 counts of arson and three counts of attempted arson.

Brennan faces multiple life sentences under the three strikes law if he is convicted because of his extensive criminal record, including sex offenses and previous arsons.


Advertisement

According to the court documents, Brennan accompanied police after his arrest and showed them a few of the places he torched, including occupied dwellings.

"Brennan stated that he knew ... residents were being placed in danger," the police report states in chilling detail.

Porter said authorities don't know the motive behind the spree of fires. They all occurred in the early morning hours, between about 2 a.m. and 7:30 a.m.

In one case, Brennan showed detectives Todd Jennings and Jesus Mendoza how he "stuffed a paper bag in the boarded-up window" of a warehouse on Peach Court and used his lighter to start the blaze, then strolled down the train tracks to his trailer park. That same morning, Jan. 9, Brennan started four other fires, the report says.

The fire that did the most damage -- $5 million worth to a warehouse on East Julian Street -- was one of them. He also used a paper bag to start it, according to the document.

In a testament to the seriousness of the case, District Attorney Jeff Rosen spoke outside the courthouse after the brief arraignment. He thanked the San Jose police and fire departments for their work in finding and arresting Brennan, as well as witnesses for promptly reporting what they had seen.

The witnesses included a man who was walking a dog and saw a man matching Brennan's description, later picking him out of a photo lineup, according to documents. Another witness also identified his photograph and then became so overwhelmed, she burst into tears, the report notes. Police were also aided by surveillance video taken on South 24th Street near Brennan's mobile home.

"The speedy and safely accomplished arrest of this dangerous suspect allowed this city to sleep soundly again," Rosen said. "The fires have been put out, and now this office will do its job to ensure that justice is done."

Rosen also asked the public to call the Crime Stoppers if they have any information about the crimes, 408-947-STOP.

Brennan has a history of arson and sex offenses. He was convicted of setting 16 fires in the Santa Clara County foothills in 1999. He also was arrested and convicted in 2001 for sexual battery and assault for molesting an underage relative of his girlfriend at her Sunnyvale home.