Mutter Dearest

The fires that terrified L.A. may come down to the tale of a German and his mother

A few hours before 2012 arrived in Los Angeles, Troy Patruno looked from the window of a friend's living room and saw an orange glow engulfing his Volkswagen. Minutes later, nothing was left but a melted frame. Patruno, a 44-year-old retail manager, had become another victim of a four-day arson spree that simultaneously baffled and frightened Angelenos. "I can't believe this is happening," said Matt Molchen, 34, a comic who lives in West Hollywood, as he surveyed a charred carport a block from his house. It had been torched the night before. "I mean, we moved here because it was safe."

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