POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – A Polk man accused of setting his girlfriend’s house on fire told detectives a “random black guy” was to blame.
According to an affidavit, Jose Bernando Rosas Madrigal, 19, of Auburndale was arrested Saturday after he set fire to his girlfriend’s home while she and her family members were inside.
Investigators said the front of the home, specifically his girlfriend’s bedroom, was covered in flammable fluid. Madrigal also sprayed the fluid all over their yard, vehicles and a canoe. A heart-shaped symbol drawn in flammable fluid was found outside his girlfriend’s bedroom.
Prior to the incident, detectives said Madrigal had sent his girlfriend several texts via Snapchat threatening to burn down her home. When questioned about this, Madrigal said he was 25 minutes away in Auburndale at his mother’s home when the fire broke out. But surveillance video tells another story.
Right before the fire was started, detectives say security cameras captured Madrigal’s truck arriving at the home. Once Madrigal learned of the video, he told detectives he drove past the home a few times after he and his girlfriend had an argument. The third time he drove by, he noticed a fire burning in the front yard and didn’t know what to do, so he just left. He denied starting the fire and said he saw “a random black guy,” light the fire and flee the scene.
Madrigal’s cell phone records show he googled “can you start charcoal with gasoline house on fire,” and other incriminating searches like “x outside the house to burn up house,” the affidavit states.
“He planned this in advance. He Googled how to burn the house, he mixed the combination and poof he set it on fire. And poof we put him in jail,” Sheriff Grady Judd said. “It’s by the grace of God that we don’t have three people burned up in a house fire.”
When asked about this, Madrigal said he had done some googling to help his brother start the fire. He told detectives oil, gasoline, lighter fluid and a lighter were used to start the fire. Once it was ignited, he drove his brother away from the scene and dropped him off around the corner.
He said he was aware his girlfriend’s family was inside the home when the fire broke out.
Neighbor Margaret Elkins came out of her home as her neighbors put out the flames.
“There was liquid everywhere,” Elkins told News Channel 8.
Elkins said Madrigal showed up to the house a few minutes after.
“While all the commotion was going on, he came back.
She said Madrigal then said something chilling to her.
“He was standing beside me, and he said, ‘usually the one that does it comes back to see what all the excitement is about.’”
Madrigal was taken into custody and charged with three counts of attempted first-degree homicide, one count of first-degree arson and possession of liquor by a person under 21 after investigators found a half bottle of vodka in his vehicle.