A 63-year-old Ardmore man says depression motivated him to burn his mother’s southwest side residence Monday night.
Fire Marshal Clyde Ellis, Ardmore Fire Department, arrested Robert Heartsell at the scene of the 9 p.m. blaze that destroyed the house, located at 1101 Hailey St. Heartsell was taken into custody without incident after admitting he set the fire.
“He got depressed because he said they were about to sell the house out from under him,” Ellis said, explaining the motive. “His mother had a reverse mortgage and had passed away. The house was going up for auction this week.”
Heartsell attracted the attention of police, who noticed him standing unusually close to the scene while watching the structure burn. Ardmore Police Department reports state the local man, who “appeared to be intoxicated,” admitted to Officer Kevin Kropp, APD Patrol Division, he was the sole resident of the blazing house.
The fire marshal said as the investigation expanded it was discovered Heartsell had been living inside the residence for several weeks without any utility services. And it was also discovered the burning of his mother’s house wasn’t his first arson rodeo.
“He was arrested and convicted of a 1999 first-degree arson,” Ellis said. “In fact, Chief (Cary) Williamson, who was an investigator back then, was the one who arrested him.”
Heartsell was booked into the Carter County Detention Center. Tuesday, a first-degree arson charge was filed against him in Carter County District Court, and he made an initial appearance before Special District Judge Thomas Baldwin. Bond was set at $10,000. A preliminary conference, which will determine the direction of the case through the judicial system, was set for Sept. 2.
Late Tuesday afternoon, CCDC jailers confirmed Heartsell remained incarcerated pending the posting of bond.