DECATUR, GA—A former employee of the Java Monkey Coffee House in Decatur has been convicted of setting the fire that destroyed the coffee house in 2018.
Jurors returned guilty verdicts on June 30 against Rickey Thomas, 32, on charges of Arson in the First Degree, Arson in the Second Degree, Criminal Damage to Property in the Second Degree, and Burglary in the Second Degree, in connection with the fire.
DeKalb County District Attorney Sherry Boston’s office said that Thomas was sentenced to a term of 30 years to serve 10. A restitution hearing will be scheduled at a later date, officials said.
According to investigators, Decatur Police and Fire departments were dispatched to a structure fire at Java Monkey coffee shop in downtown Decatur on Nov. 11, 2018.. The coffee shop suffered severe damage, the neighboring condo building had to be evacuated, and surrounding businesses, Noodle and Fresh to Orderalso suffered damage.
Fire Investigators determined that the fire originated in the back office of the business and that the cause was arson. Surveillance footage right before the 911 call revealed a male suspect, consistent with the defendant’s appearance wearing a distinct backpack, at the rear of the business with an apparent broom handle that was used to break a rear window of the business. The owner of the coffee shop identified the suspect as a disgruntled ex-employee who had been dismissed a few days before the fir, investigators said..
When Thomas was ultimately apprehended on April 1, 2019, he was wearing the distinct backpack seen in the video, and a search of his cell phone revealed an incriminating text message to his roommate, investigators said.
DeKalb County Superior Court Judge Courtney L. Johnson presided over the trial. The case was prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Ryan Patrick, with assistance from Assistant District Attorney Reid White, and DA Investigators Jerald Dalton & Cedric Hunter. Kevin Rice, of the DeKalb County Fire Department, led the initial investigation.