22-Year-Old Man Pleads Guilty To Starting East Ridge Apartment Fire

Tuesday, July 8, 2014 - by Hollie Webb
Thomas Shirley
Thomas Shirley

A 22-year-old man was sentenced to 11 years in prison Tuesday morning after pleading guilty to starting an East Ridge apartment fire in 2013.

Thomas Benson Shirley was charged with attempted aggravated arson, attempted first-degree murder, aggravated assault, and reckless endangerment after police said he started a fire in front of Emma Gohr's front door at Spring Creek Gardens.

Prosecutor Jason Demastus said, "Officers did not find evidence of accidental causes."

According to police, he had formerly lived with his caregiver across the hall from Ms. Gohr. The night of the incident, his caregiver described him as looking as if he were on drugs.

The woman told him he could not stay. 

East Ridge Police said after the fire, Shirley stole a vehicle from the apartment parking lot. He was found after he crashed the car into a building near Standifer Gap Road and Shallowford Road.

He was arrested at Erlanger Hospital. 

During a hearing, defense attorney Brandy Spurgin requested his move to prison be expedited because of problems he had in the Hamilton County Jail.

Shirley said, "They said once I get sentenced they're going to beat me up again." 

Shirley has been in custody for 18 months.

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