Fire destroyed a $90,000 house in Spring Hill on Tuesday night, and the owner's stepson told deputies he set it for revenge. Timothy M. Flanagan, 27, who was living at the home at 2315 Hunley Lane, has been charged with second-degree arson. He was living with his mother, Patricia Fanning, and her husband, Edward J. Fanning, who was listed as the home's owner on the fire department report. The couple were playing cards at a neighbor's house when the fire started at 9:56 p.m.
Besides the fire, said Sgt. Frank Bierwiler of the Hernando County
Sheriff's Office, "there looks like there was some criminal mischief in the house prior to the incident."
A china cabinet had been pushed onto a dining room table and was broken; the front window in the living room had been broken, and a lamp and a coffee table were lying in the front yard in front of the broken window, according to a Hernando County Sheriff's Office report.
The house alone was estimated to be worth $90,000, said Dick Ellyson, assistant chief of the Spring Hill Fire and Rescue District.
The Sheriff's Office set the total damage at more than $150,000.
Flanagan approached deputies about an hour after the fire started and said, "I'm drunk, I was in the woods and I was scared," according to the report.
While he was being driven to the Hernando County Jail, Flanagan said, "I did it for revenge." He was being held at the jail Thursday in lieu of $3,000 bail.
Neither Detective Jim Blade, who is investigating the fire, nor Edward Fanning knew what in particular Flanagan felt he needed to avenge. Fanning said there had been no argument.
Fanning said he had no idea why the fire was set. He said Flanagan, one of Mrs. Fanning's five sons, moved in with the couple from New York during mid-January "to start a new life."
He said his stepson had no history of psychological problems.
Fanning also said Flanagan could have been upset and not let anyone know about it. "He rarely talked, let's put it that way," Fanning said.
Ellyson said the fire started in one of the home's three bedrooms.
Neither he nor the Sheriff's Office could say how the fire was set. "(Flanagan) said he lit it with his Bic lighter, but what he lit . . . what he used as an accelerant, we don't know," Bierwiler said.
Ellyson said a state fire marshal will investigate the cause of the fire.
The Fannings' next-door neighbor, Josephine Simeone, said, "It was a beautiful house. Every time I look out of the window I want to cry.
What a pity. What a pity."
Simeone said she was in her home when the Fanning house was burning, "and all I heard was like fireworks. It was a poof, poof noise. I thought it was one of those pirate things like they have in Tampa."
Then she was told by a firefighter or a deputy to gather some personal belongings and get out of her house. When she did, she saw the flames that engulfed the Fanning home. "It was blazing and they kept pouring stuff on it and it was still blazing," she said.