SEMINOLE — Autumn Kinney had been at her wit's end for months, trying to find a safe way to separate from her ex-boyfriend.
"I think I'm finally free of him," said Kinney, 31, on Monday. "It's just a shame it took me losing everything I worked so hard for."
Most of her possessions were destroyed in a fire late Saturday. Authorities say her ex-boyfriend, Paul R. Bowers, 52, of Madeira Beach set the blaze. He was arrested Sunday on charges of arson and burglary. That was three days after he was arrested on suspicion of breaking into her house, but posted bail and walked out of jail, records show.
On Monday, the judge set Bowers' bail for Sunday's charges at $105,000. Bail for Bowers' other recent charges was revoked, court records show.
Kinney had moved out of her home after the burglary. Her neighbor called her Saturday to let her know the house was on fire. "It's the worst news you can get besides your parents dying," Kinney said.
The three-bedroom, 1 1/2-bath home at 8624 112th St. N was her "oasis." She bought the rehab home in August 2009 from Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas County for $150,000, according to Pinellas property records.
"That was my mini-mansion," she said.
Kinney was able to salvage just a few items from her home, including her great-grandfather's chest, where she stored most of her photos of family and friends.
Habitat says the home was insured, but the amount of damage hasn't been disclosed.
Kinney said she met Bowers in May 2009. For the first few months, she said, he seemed sweet and easygoing, and by August they were dating. But one day he showed up intoxicated, she said. When she tried to break things off, he became threatening, she said. According to Pinellas County Court records, she sought two protection orders for dating violence against Bowers. On Nov. 18, 2009, a judge dismissed a request for a protection order at Kinney's request. She said she backed off because she was afraid of Bowers.
She told authorities that after she broke up with him in May 2010, he sent her "vulgar" text messages and pictures, according to a Pinellas County Sheriff's Office report. On May 27, 2010, a judge denied her request for another protection order, saying the evidence was insufficient, court records said.
Kinney said she had received threatening texts from Bowers over the past month or so. About a week ago, she had a gut feeling something horrible was going to happen. She prayed to Jesus for protection. "The Lord did protect me and he's going to restore everything," Kinney said.
Lorri Helfand can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4155.