JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Investigators with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office have arrested a man after a suspicious fire that sparked at a home in Arlington and spread to a nearby apartment complex.
Terry Austin, 52, is charged with arson and unlawfully entering a property, according to his arrest report. According to investigators, the fire started at an empty home near the intersection of Arlington Road and Bretta Street. It spread to Teakwood Villas, displacing children, adults and a dog.
Latoya Perkins lives at the Teakwood Villas. She, her two daughters and her granddaughter came home last week and learned her apartment was destroyed the fire.
"Pretty much, we lost everything," Perkins said. "Personal belongings. I work from home so all my computer equipment was gone."
According to Austin's arrest report, the fire started on a mattress in front of the home.
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James Gulledge, a witness to the fire, told News4Jax that he got into an argument with Austin after he saw him pulling items out of the vacant home. Moments later, the house was on fire.
"It's heartbreaking. It hurts because I worked so hard to get here and now I'm starting from the bottom," Perkins said. "Not only do I have children, but my next door neighbor, she has children, as well, and she's out with nothing."
Perkins hopes to soon find a new home for her family. For now, she and her family members are staying in hotel rooms.
The American Red Cross said it assisted eight adults and five children after the fire.