Arsonist gets 10 years for setting Decatur coffee shop ablaze in 2018

Rickey Hodges Thomas worked as a barista at Java Monkey, but he was fired three days before the fire, the owner said. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison for setting the fire that shut the coffee shop down.

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Rickey Hodges Thomas worked as a barista at Java Monkey, but he was fired three days before the fire, the owner said. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison for setting the fire that shut the coffee shop down.

Jurors convicted an Atlanta man who set a popular DeKalb County coffee shop on fire days after he was fired from the business.

Rickey Hodges Thomas was found guilty Thursday of first- and second-degree arson, criminal damage to property and burglary in connection with the November 2018 blaze. The 32-year-old man was sentenced to 10 years in prison, followed by 20 years of probation, the DeKalb District Attorney’s office said.

According to a news release, District Attorney Sherry Boston and her team convinced jurors that Thomas set the fire, which severely damaged the Java Monkey coffee shop in downtown Decatur. The local shop never reopened for business after he burned it down, according to the owners.

The overnight fire gutted Java Monkey and forced half of the shop to be torn down. It also caused damage to several businesses in the neighboring building, which had to be evacuated. Among the nearby restaurants that had to shut down and undergo repairs were Noodle and Fresh to Order, prosecutors said.

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Investigators from the Decatur Fire Department determined someone started the blaze in a back office of Java Monkey, according to Boston. A man who matched Thomas’ description was spotted on surveillance cameras just before the fire was reported to 911. The release indicated he was holding a broom handle that was used to bust out the coffee shop’s back window.

Java Monkey’s owner identified the suspect as Thomas and said he was a “disgruntled ex-employee” who was fired just three days before the fire, Boston said.

Thomas spent several months on the run before he was arrested in East Point in April 2019, according to police. Prosecutors noted he was wearing the same distinct backpack as the one the suspect was seen wearing on the surveillance video.

A restitution hearing will be held at a later date, officials said in the release.

ExploreDowntown Decatur coffee shop closed for at least one month after fire