A Florida City man was arrested on an arson charge Thursday after he set his on-again, off-again girlfriend's Plantation Key apartment on fire when she threatened to leave him, police said.
The Monroe County Sheriff's Office arrested Willie Minton, 37, on misdemeanor battery and drug equipment possession charges, and the county fire marshal arrested him on a felony arson charge.
Minton was staying at his girlfriend's apartment at mile marker 87.7 in Plantation Key Thursday morning, when she told him she was leaving him. They had been together, off and on, for about 12 years, Deputy Nelson Sanchez wrote in his report.
Upon hearing she wanted to break up, Minton began destroying things in the apartment, according to Nelson's report. The girlfriend ran out and hopped on a bicycle with a flat tire and rode a mile to a relative's house.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
The victim told deputies Minton had hit her in the past, including three days earlier, when he punched her repeatedly in the face. Sanchez said she had visible injuries to her face, arm and shoulder.
"However, she has been terrified to report it because he has made threats in the past to kill her if she leaves him," Sanchez wrote.
When the victim arrived at her relative's house, she texted a neighbor, asking if she would check on the apartment. The neighbor, while on the phone with the girlfriend, went to the door and tried to open it, but it was locked. Then Minton opened the door and asked for bus money. She told him she did not have cash and went to her apartment, which is next door.
Then, around 11:30 a.m., the neighbor smelled something burning and saw black smoke coming through her apartment's vents. Firefighters arrived and put out the blaze in the apartment. The county fire marshal said the fire appeared "suspicious," according to Nelson's report.
The oven door was open and a mattress in the center of the apartment was charred.
Minton was arrested at a nearby convenience store. Nelson said he denied setting the fire. In his backpack, deputies say they found a small amount of marijuana and a device that grinds marijuana leaves. He is in Key West jail. Bond information was not immediately available.