FORMER EMPLOYEE CONVICTED OF ARSON FOR SETTING FIRE THAT DESTROYED DECATUR COFFEE SHOP
State vs. Rickey Thomas
Decatur, Ga.- DeKalb County District Attorney Sherry Boston announces a conviction by jury trial in the case against a former employee accused of lighting the fire that destroyed Java Monkey, a Decatur coffee shop, in 2018. Jurors returned guilty verdicts Thursday 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.
On November 11, 2018, the Decatur Police and Fire departments were dispatched to a structure fire at Java Monkey coffee shop in downtown Decatur. The coffee shop suffered severe damage, the neighboring condo building had to be evacuated, and surrounding businesses, Noodle and Fresh to Order, also 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 fire.
When the defendant 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.
Following his conviction, Defendant Thomas was immediately sentenced to a term of 30 years to serve 10 in custody by DeKalb County Superior Court Judge Courtney L. Johnson, who presided over the trial. Additionally, he is to have no contact with the victims, and a restitution hearing will be scheduled at a later date.
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.