Kansas City man accused of setting South Bay fires was reportedly here for high school reunion

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- A Kansas City man accused of intentionally setting a string of fires in the South Bay was reportedly here for his high school reunion.

Freddie Graham made his first court appearance Monday afternoon. He did not enter a plea and will return to court on November 15.

Graham is facing 13 counts of arson -- one for each fire he allegedly set and two special counts for arson during a state of emergency declared by Governor Gavin Newsom.

Police say Graham was in town from Missouri for his high school's 50th reunion when he set the fires.

Our media partner the Mercury News reports Graham told investigators he was in an "emotional state" over his wife's death. Records show she died in 2018. Apparently the couple had plans to drive together on Calaveras Road, which leads to the reservoir.

The report goes on to explain that Graham told investigators he set a paper bag and napkins from a fast food restaurant on fire once he got up there.

"It was extremely dangerous to set fires in the foothills at this time of year, at that time of day, given the temperature and the location," said Supervising Deputy District Attorney Bud Porter.

A witness snapped a photo of Graham near the fire scene and about 24 hours later, Cal Fire personnel spotted him there. He was able to take off from the scene and head to his class reunion, but law enforcement caught him at Mineta San Jose International Airport before he could leave town.

Graham's former classmates are stunned and say he appeared to be having a fun time at the reunion. Meanwhile, crews were battling the grass fire that in total burned 128 acres.

"Was this someone suffering from a mental health breakdown as the result of the loss of his wife? Or was this someone who had a vendetta against his former hometown," said legal analyst and former prosecutor Stephen Clark. "The motive here, while not relevant to guilt or innocence, will certainly be relevant as to how this case gets handled."

If convicted, Graham faces a minimum of five years and a maximum of 22 years in prison.
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