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Man accused of arson at Tampa apartment community

Published Feb. 4, 2014

TAMPA — A man who lives in an apartment that was the scene of a huge fire Sunday night was arrested early Monday morning on a felony arson charge.

He set the blaze, according to police, to get back at the management of the apartment complex, whom he felt had treated him unjustly.

Four people were left homeless as a result of the fire, according to Tampa Fire Rescue officials, which broke out just after 10 p.m. at the Mar Plaza Apartments at 4817 E Temple Heights Road, near Busch Boulevard and N 56th Street.

When firefighters arrived, they found smoke billowing from apartment No. B201, on the second floor of one of the buildings, authorities said. Crews put out the fire in about 20 minutes.

An investigation revealed that the fire originated in two separate areas — a bedroom and the kitchen — inside the apartment, according to a police report. Fire investigators determined that flammable liquids were spread to start the blaze.

A resident of one of the apartments told police that his neighbor, Kenneth Haskins, 58, admitted to setting the fire, according to an arrest report.

Haskins, who lives in the apartment where the fire started, later told detectives that he wanted to get back at the company that manages Mar Plaza, police said.

His reason: They had recently told him to stop masturbating in front of his open windows and front door, according to police. He was arrested on a charge of first-degree arson and held in the Orient Road Jail without bail.

Firefighters and police evacuated 28 other apartments after the fire broke out, officials said. No one was injured. Fire and smoke damage was confined to Haskins' apartment and the one next door, fire officials said. Two other apartments on the first floor also sustained water damage.

The American Red Cross was called to assist the displace residents with finding temporary housing.

Mar Plaza, according to internet postings, is a community of about 80 small apartments. It caters to low-income seniors and disabled people.

Haskins, who has lived there for more than a decade, suffers from facial disfigurement that is the result of having previously shot himself in the face with a shotgun, according to Tampa police. He has no major criminal history in Florida, according to state records.

Times news researcher John Martin contributed to this report.

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