Arrest Made in Historic Ice Cream Shop Arson Case

September 8, 2022 Criminal Defense, News & Announcements, Theft/Property Crimes

I scream, you scream, we all scream for more knowledge on the arson statute in Florida! Arson charges are often complex and taken very seriously in the state of Florida. Whether the incident happened with purpose or resulted from boredom, damaging a dwelling or structure from fire or an explosion can lead to an arson charge.

A recent case in Orlando almost resulted in a local dessert staple destroyed due to arson. We will cover the details of the case, along with information on arson charges in Florida.

What was the Case?

On May 20th, 2022, the iconic Orlando ice cream shop, Goff’s Drive-In, was targeted in an arson case. The historic dessert shop had a fire destroy part of the building, with melted plastic and paint coming off the walls and charring one of the inside desks. The owner—Todd Peacock—claimed it was the second time in two weeks that someone targeted the stand and forced them to close shop for several months.

Peacock received a notice that a motion alarm was going off right before the fire alarm sounded. The owner was positive that if someone intentionally set the fire, it was not anyone who lived nearby. “The community here, everybody watches out for us, thank god for that,” Peacock said.

Almost three months after the fire, Orange County Police found and arrested the suspect in the case. Alfred Kirkland, 58, was arrested and charged with arson for the burning of Goff’s.

According to Orlando Police, there existed video evidence from a security camera that showed Kirkland walking through the fenced area where the ice cream shop is located. Kirkland can be seen taking out a gallon jug and pouring what is assumed to be flammable liquid onto the building. Then the defendant is seen on video igniting the fire, almost destroying the ice cream shop that has been around since the 1940s.

Crime scene investigators searched the scene and found a red spot under the fence where the security footage showed the suspect crawling under. Investigators determined the red spot was blood and submitted the sample to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for testing.

The FDLE used the Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS, and were able to match the DNA samples from the fence to Kirkland, which is when they were finally able to make the arrest. Kirkland is currently out on bond.

“Showing up that morning…that was the hardest,” Peacock said of his ice cream shop. “But then seeing somebody do it made it worse.”

Peacock was unable to confirm if he had seen Kirkland before to determine what caused the arson, however the owner said he sees thousands of customers, so he was unsure what the motive was.

“It was kind of a relief,” Peacock explained after the suspect was arrested. “The only question I have: why? What did we do to you? We don’t have enemies.”

DNA Identification

The Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS, is the general term that refers to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) DNA database and software. One part of CODIS, The National DNA Index System (NDIS) contained DNA profiles that are contributed by forensic laboratories across the nation at both the local and federal levels. The database works by comparing DNA evidence collected at the scene of a crime from a suspected offender against the existing DNA profiles in the system. The existing profiles generally come from individuals who have been arrested previously. If there is a match, the laboratory with conduct further tests to confirm the match, and if confirmed, will provide investigators with the matched individual’s information. The DNA collected will also be searched against the Forensic Index, or the state’s database of crime scene evidence. If there is a match there, the laboratory again goes through confirmation procedures, and if confirmed, the match will mean that there are two or more crimes linked together. Then, the different law enforcement agencies (federal and state) can work together and share information in order to develop and solve the case.

Arson in Florida

Arson is a criminal charge defined under Florida Statute Section 806.01 as when an individual willfully and unlawfully causes a fire or explosion that results in damages to the following:

  • Any dwelling, occupied or not, or its contents;
  • Any structure where people are normally present, such as – prisons, jails, detention centers; hospitals, nursing homes, or other health facilities; department stores, office buildings, churches, educational institutions or other similar structures; or
  • Any other structure that the individual knew had reason to believe was occupied by another human being.

Any individual who violates this statute can face a first-degree felony charge. The penalties for a first-degree felony conviction include up to a $10,000 fine and up to 30 years in prison.

If the defendant has willfully and unlawfully, while in the commission of any felony, lit a fire or explosion resulting damage to any structure, they can be charged with a second-degree felony. Penalties for a second-degree felony include up to a $10,000 fine and up to 15 years in prison.

 To find out more about arson charges and the potential defenses to an arson charge in Florida, read our informative page here.

Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

An arson conviction can result in serious consequences in Florida. Paying expensive fines, imprisonment, and the stigma of holding a criminal record are all possible outcomes after getting charged with arson. Working with a skilled Tallahassee criminal defense attorney is the best bet to strategize a strong defense to your case. If you or a loved one have been accused of arson, reach out to Don Pumphrey and his team at Pumphrey Law Firm. We have represented clients all across the state of Florida for various criminal charges. We vow to stand in your corner and fight for your freedom. Call (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message today for a free consultation.

Written by Karissa Key

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