Fugitive accused in 2001 UW horiculture center firebombing is arrested

A fugitive accused of building the bomb used by radicals in 2001 to burn the University of Washington’s Center for Urban Horticulture was taken into federal custody in Chicago Wednesday and will be returned to Washington to stand trial, federal authorities said.

The FBI took Justin Solondz, 31, into custody after he was expelled from China, where he served a three-year prison term for drug offenses.

Solondz was indicted, along with five other purported members of the Earth Liberation Front, on charges of setting a fire that destroyed the UW horticulture center and did $6 million in damage to the facility.  The arsonists wrongly believed the center to be working in genetic engineering. In fact, the professor targeted by ELF was studying fast-growing poplar trees planted as an alternative means of producing wood fiber.

Solondz fled the country before the indictment came down.

 “The dogged persistence and long-term patience of the FBI has paid off.  Mr. Solondz will finally face accountability for his actions,” U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan said in a statement.

According to court documents, Solondz built the firebombs in a 'clean room' behind an Olympia residence, transported them to Seattle, and remained in the car as a getaway driver during the arson. 

Solondz was the boyfriend of Briana Waters, 35, who recently pleaded guilty to her role in setting the $6 million blaze and is expected to testify against Solondz in order to avoid any more prison time.

Federal authorities did not say how soon Solondz would be transported back to Washington.