LOS ANGELES — Harry Burkhart watched as his mother was arrested last week on fraud charges from their native Germany, and a day later he exploded in an expletive-laced rant against the U.S. at her court hearing.
That's when, authorities believe, Burkhart, angry over his mother's legal troubles, went on a nighttime rampage of arson attacks that terrorized Los Angeles and caused $3 million in damage.
Court documents unsealed Tuesday said Dorothee Burkhart, who is in her 50s, was charged with 19 counts of fraud in Frankfurt, including failing to pay for a 2004 breast-augmentation surgery and pilfering security deposits from renters.
In a brief court appearance, she appeared perplexed, wondering aloud if her son had disappeared or was dead. At one point, she said, he is mentally ill and questioned whether Nazis knew where she and her son lived.
"Where is my son? What did you do to my son?" she asked U.S. Magistrate Judge Margaret Nagle.
Harry Burkhart, 24, was being held without bail after being arrested in the arson case Monday. His mother also is being held without bail and her court hearing was delayed until Friday so she can hire an attorney.
Outside his Hollywood apartment, some neighbors described him as a loner who loitered around the busy commercial strip at night and could be heard arguing with his mother.
But Shlomo Elady, a hair stylist who regularly trimmed Burkhart's long hair, recalled someone who spoke three languages, dreamed of visiting Jerusalem and cared for a sickly mother who had trouble walking.
Elady said he was stunned that the man who lived with his mother above his Sunset Boulevard shop is suspected of torching vehicles, some just steps from his home.