Serial arsonist set fires for nearly a year before cops tracked him down: prosecutors

Kurt Jagade (Chicago Police Department)

CHICAGO — Prosecutors say a serial arsonist set fires for nearly a year in South Lawndale before Chicago police took him into custody. Kurt Jagade, 45, of Justice, has been detained to await trial by Judge Susana Ortiz.

Cops initially arrested Jagade on September 11 on allegations that he poured a flammable liquid into a garbage can and set it ablaze in the 3100 block of South Ridgeway three days earlier. Investigators said they found video footage of him setting that fire. He went home on electronic monitoring by posting a $5,000 bail deposit.

But police kept his phone and secured a search warrant. In newly filed allegations, prosecutors said the warrant turned up evidence that Jagade searched Google for information about garage fires in Little Italy and South Lawndale on the day he was arrested.

Using a collection of video evidence, police linked Jagade to more arson fires in the same neighborhood that occurred before he was arrested.

At least one of those fires caused extensive damage to a woman’s detached garage, prosecutors said. They linked Jagade to several fires during his detention hearing last week:

  • in the 3200 block of South Ridgeway at 8:15 p.m. on October 6, 2022
  • in the 3200 block of South Ridgeway at 8:30 p.m. on October 6, 2022
  • in the 3200 block of South Ridgeway at 9:40 p.m. on October 30, 2022
  • in the 3200 block of South Hamlin at 10:45 p.m. on June 19, 2023
  • in the 3000 block of South Karlov on the evening of August 13, 2023

About two hours before the October 30 fire, Chicago cops stopped Jagade for a traffic violation, prosecutors said. The officers’ body camera footage played an important role in linking Jagade with the arsonist’s vehicle, according to the allegations.

After his latest arrest, Jagade allegedly told officers that “he is an alcoholic and doesn’t remember anything about the arsons,” according to a court filing by prosecutors. But he admitted to being in the area of the 3200 block of South Ridgeway to drop off his kids with his ex, officials said.

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