The University of Chicago News Office
Nov. 18, 2005 Press Contact: Larry Arbeiter
(773) 702-8360 (w)

Arson charges filed in campus fires

UPDATE: Friday, Nov. 18, 11:30 a.m.

At a news conference Friday morning, the City of Chicago Police Department announced that it is charging a woman in the series of small fires that took place on the University of Chicago campus on Monday and Tuesday, Nov. 14 and 15. According to the police, Ms. Julita Groszko has been charged with two counts of aggravated arson, three counts of attempted aggravated arson and one felony charge of criminal damage to property.

Groszko was apprehended by undercover officers on Wednesday, Nov. 16, after police conducted interviews with several witnesses.

According to University records, and in accord with the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, Ms. Julita Maria Groszko matriculated at the University of Chicago in autumn 1993. She remained enrolled through the spring of 1996. She returned to the university in the summer of 2004 and received her Bachelor's degree in chemistry in the spring of 2005. Her address at that time was listed as Crystal Lane in Mt. Prospect, Il.

The University of Chicago community feels a debt of gratitude to the University and City of Chicago police officers and firemen who have worked to both respond to the fires and to apprehend the suspect.

For more on the charges, see the Chicago Police Department's official news release.

The following story was originally posted on Tuesday, Nov. 15, at 6 p.m.

Several small but apparently intentional fires were discovered on the campus of the University of Chicago in the last two days. No one has been injured, and property damage has been modest. All of the fires involved paper, a flammable liquid, or both.

The first occurred at 10:40 a.m. Monday, Nov. 14 on the first floor of Swift Hall, when an accelerant was poured on a door to a commons room and ignited. The fire was put out by the Chicago Fire Department.

The second through fourth fires occurred within less than an hour of each other Tuesday afternoon in three adjacent buildings on the North side of the main Quadrangle.

At 2:05 p.m., in a vestibule outside a lecture hall on the first floor of Kent laboratories, a flammable liquid was spread on a table and wall unit and ignited. The fire was put out by the Chicago Fire Department, which also found a plastic bottle they believe contained a flammable liquid. The table was slightly damaged.

At 2:35 p.m. a flammable liquid was ignited in an elevator in Ryerson Hall, across the street from Kent. The fire was extinguished by a small group of faculty and staff members.

And at 3:00 p.m. a stack of papers was ignited in Eckhart Hall, which is connected to Ryerson. The fire was noticed and put out by a professor.

All of the fires were reported by students or occupants of the buildings.

The University sent an e-mail to all members of the campus community at approximately 3:20 p.m., suggesting caution and requesting information from anyone who may have witnessed anything suspicious. Anyone with any information should immediately call the University Police Department at 702-8181.

Several of the affected buildings have been secured and entrance to them now requires proper identification. Occupants are being asked to collect their belongings and may not be allowed back inside until the Fire Department completes its investigation. As a precautionary measure, several buildings within the Physical Sciences Division were also evacuated.

The University’s police department is working closely with the City of Chicago police and fire departments.
Last modified at 11:42 AM CST on Friday, November 18, 2005.

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