Fire Marshal: Suspect burns down house for insurance money

Published 12:13 am Saturday, April 1, 2017

LAPLACE — Authorities say Derrick McDonald flew into Louis Armstrong International Airport at 5 p.m. July 9, checked into a hotel, drove to the River Parishes, set fire to his home overnight and flew back out of the state at 11 a.m. July 10.

“We can put him there at the home at the time of the fire in spite of the fact that he claimed to not be anywhere in the area,” Brant L. Thompson said. “He made a trip back to Louisiana for one purpose and one purpose only, and that was to rid them of that burden that had been lingering for some time. That’s our position in this.”

Thompson is the Louisiana State Fire Marshal Deputy Chief and spoke with L’OBSERVATEUR about McDonald’s arrest this week in St. John the Baptist Parish.

According to Thompson, McDonald lives in Michigan with his wife, who owned a home in Vacherie. That home burned down July 10 as it sat unoccupied.

Authorities said the 2700 square foot residential structure carried a $221,000 insurance policy and also had coverage of up to $177,000 for content.

Thompson believes the home had been empty for four months prior to the blaze.

“The insurance company was the one to lose here, a considerable amount of money, and we put a stop to that,” Thompson said.

McDonald, 43, of Farmington Hills, Michigan, turned himself into St. John authorities Tuesday for simple arson and misdemeanor contempt of court charges.

He posted a $25,169.50 bond and was released the same day.

Thompson said his office is working with the district attorney to determine the investigation’s next steps, adding additional suspects are being considered.