MARION COUNTY, Fla. (WESH) — A horse jockey is accused of setting a woman’s Marion County house on fire Tuesday night and then fleeing in a car that was painted to look like the General Lee from “The Dukes of Hazzard” television show.
Officials with the Marion County Sheriff’s Office said Oswald Pereira is suspected of setting the home on Southwest 103rd Loop on fire before leading deputies on a chase into Levy County.
Neighbor Shirley Gravelle captured video of the fire as it raged Tuesday night. She and her husband Larry said they know Pereira from around the neighborhood and said he worked as a jockey.
“He’s always been really nice to us. Every time we’re walking, he’ll stop and say hi. And he loved his job, and I know he loved his family, so I honestly don’t know. He must have been really distraught if it is him,” Gravelle said.
Pereira was finally caught inside a home in Levy County.
He was taken to a hospital in Gainesville with burns on about 15 percent of his body.
The 44-year-old has had run-ins with the law before. He was arrested on a theft charge last month and charged with aggravated domestic battery for an incident that occurred in February 2018.
He now faces a charge of fleeing and eluding law enforcement, assault on an officer and violating a domestic violence protection order.
Fire officials will determine whether to charge him with arson.
The woman was not hurt. Fire crews saved at least two dogs that were in the house.