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Man allegedly tried to torch apartment, while he hid inside

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

Robert Thomas McKinney was hiding in the closet of his basement apartment, as smoke from two small fires triggered the sprinkler system.

Police and prosecutors allege that McKinney set those fires after his girlfriend left him.

When firefighters found the 56-year-old man in his closet on Dec. 17, at about 6 p.m., the sprinklers were still on, the two fires were extinguished and McKinney said he wasn't feeling well.

A Clayton County grand jury indicted McKinney on Wednesday, on charges of first degree arson and criminal damage to property.

According to court and police records, McKinney lived in the basement apartment of a 20-unit building at 3001 Summer Court Drive, in Jonesboro.

"We spoke to McKinney," Clayton County Police Officer Terry Tuck wrote in his police report. "[He] stated that he started the fires because people were trying to get inside and kill him. McKinney further stated that he did not have a phone and started the fires so someone would come help him. We asked McKinney who was trying to kill him and he said he did not know."

The man reportedly appeared "groggy" to the police, and he told them he had felt ill, earlier that day, and had lain down by the apartment mailboxes.

Police believe the man may have been depressed and reacting to a break-up with his girlfriend. At some point, during the interview with officers, outside his water- and fire-damaged apartment, McKinney reportedly said his girlfriend had recently left him and was trying to get back into the apartment to get her stuff.

The woman, 36-year-old Yvangeline Farely, of Lithonia, was still receiving mail at the Jonesboro residence.

McKinney's next court date has not been set. He faces the maximum possible sentence of 25 years in prison.