Gulfport Man Faces Arson, Animal Cruelty Charges

A Gulfport man was arrested Tuesday, June 21, on felony arson and animal cruelty charges stemming from a fire earlier this month that left a house uninhabitable and killed a dozen animals, according to local police.

Thomas Bennett Jr., 51, was being held in the Hillsborough County Jail awaiting extradition to Pinellas County, Gulfport Police Sgt. Thomas Woodman said Wednesday.

Bennett, who is unemployed, lived at the house at 6124 10th Ave. S. with his girlfriend and two teenage children, none of whom were home at the time of the blaze. Two cats and 10 birds died in the fire, which was started with a propane torch, Woodman said. The house remains unlivable due to smoke and fire damage, he said.

According to the police report, Gulfport Police Chief Rob Vincent came upon the house engulfed in flames shortly after 2 p.m. on June 3. Bennett reportedly came out of the house with a large knife and threatened to kill himself. He was detained and taken to Tampa General Hospital for burns resulting from the blaze.

The police report quoted Bennett’s girlfriend as saying he had threatened to set the house on fire that morning if she went to work, but that he had made threats in the past and she had not taken him seriously.

If found guilty, Bennett faces up to 30 years in prison for the charge of first degree arson and up to five years for each of 12 counts of third degree animal cruelty, Woodman said.

A sampling of police reports June 15 – 22, 2016, in Gulfport, St. Pete Beach and South Pasadena. Source: Pinellas County Crime Viewer

Gulfport

Burglary (residence)
6/18, 5400 block of 13th Ave. S., 12 p.m.

Burglary (vehicle)
6/15, 5800 block of 18th Ave. S., 1:30 a.m.
6/19, 900 block of 53rd St. S., 6:52 p.m.

Missing person
6/21, 1300 block of 49th St. S., 12 p.m.

Stolen vehicle
6/20, 5100 block of 31st Ave. S., 8 p.m.

Theft (grand)
6/16, 6100 block of Gulfport Blvd. S., 3:15 p.m.
6/16, 4900 block of 31st Ave. S., 12 a.m.
6/20, 5100 block of 16th Ave. S., 12 p.m.

St. Pete Beach

Assault
6/19, 500 block of Corey Ave., 11:34 p.m.

Battery
6/20, 5200 block of Gulf Blvd., 3 a.m.

Burglary (residence)
6/20, 1300 block of Gulf Way, 4:30 p.m.

Burglary (vehicle)
6/16, 4700 block of Gulf Blvd., 12:30 p.m.

Stolen vehicle
6/16, 5200 block of Gulf Blvd., 5 p.m.

Theft (grand)
6/16, 5500 block of Gulf Blvd., 12 p.m.

Theft (petit)
6/15, 600 block of 75th Ave., 11:54 p.m.
6/21, 5900 block Gulf Blvd., 9 p.m.

Traffic accident
6/17, 46th Ave. and Gulf Blvd., 12:11 p.m.

Trespass
6/17, 7700 block of Gulf Blvd., 1:10 a.m.
6/20, 69th Ave. and Beach Pl., 4:42 p.m.

South Pasadena

Battery
6/20, 1400 block Pasadena Ave. S., 7:53 p.m.

Theft (grand)
6/15, 1800 block of Shore Dr. S., 5: p.m.
6/17, 1300 block of Pasadena Ave. S., 8 a.m.

Theft (shoplifting)
6/15, 6800 block of Gulfport Blvd. S., 10:30 a.m.

Trespass
6/21, 2500 block of Pasadena Ave. S., 10:12 a.m.

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