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.


Get Emailed Headlines From Chattanoogan.com; Like Us On Facebook, Twitter For Instant News

We send out headlines each day of the latest Chattanooga news. Our news headlines have links that take you to the stories with a click. We also send out special emails if there is a highly significant local news story breaking so you will be aware of it quickly. To be added to the email headline list, just email us at news@chattanoogan.com In addition, like us on Facebook ... (click for more)

Latest Hamilton County Jail Booking Report

Here is the latest jail booking report from Hamilton County: ACUFF, TONY DION  1929 EAST 34TH STREET CHATTANOOGA, 37406  Age at Arrest: 19 years old Arresting Agency: Hamilton County ATTEMPTED FIRST DEGREE MURDER AGGRAVATED ROBBERY AGGRAVATED ROBBERY --- BABB, BARRY ALLEN  1201 SAN HSI DRIVE CHATTANOOGA, 00000  Age at Arrest: 51 years old ... (click for more)

Do Something To Protect Our Children

It is unconscionable in this day and age that these children had to exist in such deplorable conditions and that an innocent baby suffered and died alone in a locked car.  Yes, there is blame and accountability considering this family had child neglect charges filed a few years ago (that were apparently dropped and expunged) and a large part of the responsibility should ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: School Board Shoves Back

The Hamilton County School Board, told that ‘no’ was not an option three months ago when state Education Commissioner Candice McQueen arrived to take over five floundering public schools, may have to ask the Governor to call out the Tennessee Guard. A very vocal School Board shoved a bitter ultimatum right back into McQueen’s lap during a work session Thursday night and showed it ... (click for more)

Chattanooga State Basketball Camp Is More Than Basketball

As Chattanooga State head men’s basketball coach Jay Price out it simply, “Chattanooga Parks and Recreation had the kids, we had the resources.” So, a partnership was struck where the city supplied 140 boys from the inner city and Chatt State brought the facilities. The girl's camp last week had 75 participants.   Just like that the first of what Coach Price hopes will ... (click for more)

Lookouts Announce That Playoff Tickets Are On Sale Beginning July 24th

The 2017 First Half North Division Champion Chattanooga Lookouts have announced that individual tickets for the Lookouts 2017 playoffs presented by CoreCivic Silverdale Detention Facility will go on sale online at Lookouts.com and over the phone on Monday, July 24 at 9:00 a.m.  Tickets start at just $6.  On Monday, fans will be able to secure their seats to the team’s ... (click for more)