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Springdale 9-year-old says man threatened her before firebombing neighbor's house

Posted at 10:45 PM, Oct 21, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-23 01:18:43-04

SPRINGDALE, Ohio -- Police on Monday evening continued their search for the man who firebombed an 89-year-old woman's home the day before.

Caught halfway through retrieving a lost toy near her family's Grandin Avenue home, 9-year-old Lilly Niederlehner watched in shock as a stranger pulled up to her neighbor's house and lobbed a flaming object onto the roof. 

When it rolled back down, he grabbed it again, she said.

"My sister was at the end of the street because she went down to get her ball that we had lost," Niederlehner said. "I yelled at my sister, ‘Come on, Leah, you need to get back here now. … He threatened to throw it at her. He looked up at her and looked at me."

Then, according to Niederlehner, he appeared to change his mind. The man tossed his firebomb through the front window of the neighbor's house and ran, leaping back into the truck and speeding away. 

The woman's son extinguished the small fire that spread from the spot the bomb landed, leaving all on the street uninjured but shaken. She moved that night to stay with neighbors. 

Springdale Fire Department chief inspector Tom Lindsey said Sunday investigators had not identified any leads on a suspect or any possible motive for the  crime, which is being investigated as arson. The broken pieces of the bomb were sent to a lab for analysis. 

"Until it's reconstructed, we won't have an exact size of what it was," Lindsey said, adding he was also unsure what materials might have been used in its construction.

According to Niederlehner and a 911 caller who reported the incident, the suspect was a tall, thin, bearded man in his 50s driving a silver and blue Dodge Toyota with a painted-over license plate.

""He didn't say a thing," Niederlehner said. "He just threw it and ran off."

Anyone with information about the incident should call Springdale police at 513-346-5760.