Florida

He wanted to set her house on fire, cops say. His clumsiness sent her to the hospital

Terry Palmer in his most recent Lee County Sheriff’s Office mugshot
Terry Palmer in his most recent Lee County Sheriff’s Office mugshot

The ineptitude of a temperamental Florida man who tried to torch a house burned a woman into critical condition, cops say.

Fort Myers police say they waited for Terry Palmer to have his burns treated, then arrested him on charges of arson in the first degree of a dwelling with people present and arson causing great bodily harm or permanent disability.

The great bodily harm came to Thelma Shelby, who cops say has been transferred to Tampa Hospital Burn Unit in critical condition. Palmer, 39, sits in Lee County Jail on $400,000 bond, which likely will become no bond if Shelby doesn’t make it and a murder charge is added.

On Tuesday afternoon, police say, a call that a woman had been set on fire brought them to 2922 Evans Ave., where they found Shelby. Her daughter told cops that Palmer decided to escalate an earlier argument with Shelby into burning down the woman’s house. He brought a jug of flammable liquid to do the job.

The convicted burglar turned out to be a maladroit arsonist. Shelby’s daughter said Palmer lit his own shirt, threw the jug as he tried to put out the fire on his shirt and set Shelby’s clothes on fire.

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