Suspect agrees to plea deal, prison time in Umatilla arson case

Man set string of fires in 2019

James Anthony Bennett. (Florida Department of Corrections)

UMATILLA, Fla. – A man charged with setting a string of fires in Umatilla in 2019 has pleaded no contest to all charges against him and agreed to prison time.

James Anthony Bennett, 51, was arrested on April 18, 2019, after firefighters responded to several fires over several days that were determined to be deliberate.

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One of them happened at the Jolly Rodger Pawn Shop, where surveillance video showed a man burglarizing the shop at the same time two of the fires were burning.

In the wake of the fires, which included an off-duty deputy’s car being torched, an arson task force was created in Lake County to help track down the suspect.

According to court records, Bennett pleaded no contest in September to all six charges leveled against him, which include four counts of arson and two counts of burglary.

He was sentenced to five years in prison and 10 years of probation.

A judge also ordered him to pay restitution which amounts to more than $10,000.

About the Author:

Erik Sandoval joined the News 6 team as a reporter in May 2013 and became an Investigator in 2020. During his time at News 6, Erik has covered several major stories, including the 2016 Presidential campaign. He was also one of the first reporters live on the air at the Pulse Nightclub shooting.