Friday, April 12, 2024

Pinellas deputies investigate a squatting and dispute turned arson case in Safety Harbor

On Sunday, March 24th, 2024, at approximately 11:10 a.m., the Safety Harbor Fire Department responded to a residential structure fire at 3406 Enterprise Rd E, Safety Harbor. The house is nestled within a secluded wooded area just northeast of where the railroad track intersects Enterprise Rd.

Kelley Gard, who had been squatting in the abandoned house, had a companion, 55-year-old Robert Thompson, stay at the home overnight. Kelley revealed that she had been residing at the property to assert squatter’s rights. Sunday morning, Kelley was abruptly awakened by Robert’s angry shouts and screams. Their altercation escalated, and Robert physically assaulted Kelley, striking her in the left eye and throwing her to the ground.

During their heated exchange, Robert declared his intention to burn down the residence. Kelley escaped and sought refuge at a neighboring business complex for her safety. There, someone dialed 911 on her behalf.

Upon her return to the home, Robert told Kelley to retrieve the dogs, or he would burn them. She collected the dogs and left again to meet deputies at the business complex.

When she returned to the home, accompanied by a deputy, they noticed smoke billowing from the front doorway.

They discovered a lit citronella tiki torch in a rolled-up carpet inside the front entrance.

Thompson was charged with arson in the first degree, possession of Fentanyl, and felony battery and booked into the Pinellas County Jail.

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