COCOA, Fla. – A 30-year-old tenant of a Cocoa triplex is accused of setting the apartment on fire Thursday morning and watching it burn.
Cocoa police said Randy Jones confessed to setting fire to the apartment at Fiske Boulevard and Counts Street and and said he will face a maximum of life in prison if convicted on three first-degree arson charges.
Police said a Brevard County sheriff's deputy was driving in the area when the deputy saw the fire and reported it.
Police credited the deputy with possibly saving the lives of 22 people in the other two units of the building, including 18 children staying for a sleepover.
"His actions today probably saved all those people in there," spokesperson Yvonne Martinez said of the deputy.
In a police report, the deputy told investigators Jones watched the fire after setting it and when asked by detectives why he set the fire, Jones said because he wanted to.
Police said Jones started the fire with a lighter inside his apartment and his brother who lives with him, failed to put it out.
Police said the suspect's brother said Jones has set fires before, including setting his own hair on fire when it was longer.
Jones is being held in the Brevard County jail without bond and is expected to face a judge Friday.
Grandmother Doris Gary said the children staying at the sleepover even lost their new school supplies.
"I've got grandkids, and I've got kids who stay in the second apartment and the third apartment, so I'm worried about my grandkids because my grandkids like to sleep late," Gary said.
A GoFundMe page was set up to help support the victims living in the other two apartments.