A security guard for a company hired to protect construction sites at a Charles County, Md., subdivision was arrested yesterday and charged with setting fires last week that destroyed...

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WASHINGTON — A security guard for a company hired to protect construction sites at a Charles County, Md., subdivision was arrested yesterday and charged with setting fires last week that destroyed 10 unoccupied houses at the development and damaged 16.

Aaron Lee Speed, 21, was taken into custody by federal agents while he was taking a polygraph test, several law-enforcement sources said. Speed, who spent time at the subdivision as a guard for Security Services of America, is scheduled to appear today in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, Md., to face a charge of arson.

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The law-enforcement sources said he made self-incriminating statements during the polygraph test, prompting the arrest. They said more arrests are possible.

Speed’s arrest followed 10 days of investigation into early-morning fires Dec. 6 that devastated part of the Hunters Brooke subdivision, causing an estimated $10 million damage.

After initially considering ecoterrorism and racism as possible motives for the arsons, investigators moved away from those theories this week. They declined to say yesterday what might have prompted the arsons.

The law-enforcement sources and people familiar with Speed described him as a man in a downward emotional spiral after a family tragedy last spring.

Speed’s mother-in-law, Dolores Jaillet, said federal agents who questioned Speed’s wife focused much of their attention on the death in April of the couple’s 10-week-old son, a twin who succumbed to an illness.

“They were trying to say it was because Aaron was stressed out,” Jaillet said, adding that she does not believe he was involved in the arsons. “I can tell you, he’s a nice kid,” she said.

Speed’s attorney, William Burgess, was not available for comment last night, Burgess’ wife said.