TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Police in Tampa have arrested a man they say set fire to a home with an elderly woman inside just days after he stole the woman’s jewelry and pawned it.
Officers charged 55-year-old John Alan Petrey on Monday with arson and attempted murder in connection with a South Tampa house fire that happened earlier this month.
Tampa firefighters and police officers responded to a fire at a home on Church Avenue just after 4 a.m. on July 9. An elderly woman who was in the home at the time was able to escape but suffered a second-degree burn on her foot.
Firefighters were able to get the fire under control within minutes of arriving at the scene. An investigator from the fire marshal’s office then started investigating the fire as a possible arson.
Petrey was initially arrested on July 18 for stealing jewelry from the home several days before the arson, on July 3. Police say Petrey stole rings from the elderly woman then pawned them. He was charged with theft from a person 65 or older, dealing in stolen property and providing false information on a pawnbroker form.
As detectives and the fire marshal continued their investigation, they determined Petrey also set fire to the woman’s home less than a week after stealing her rings, police say.
Detectives say Petrey went to the home on Church Street in the early morning hours of July 9, poured gasoline in the hallway and ignited it, knowing the elderly woman was asleep in the house. Fire officials say the flames quickly grew and made it hard for the woman to escape.
The elderly woman threw bedding on the fire to dampen the flames and managed to get out.
While Petrey was in jail on his theft charges, detectives say he admitted he set the fire on July 9. He has now been charged with attempted felony murder, first-degree arson of a dwelling and arson with injury.