Rickey Thomas worked as a barista at Java Monkey, but he was fired three days before the fire, the owner said.
Photo: JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM / DeKalb County Sheriff's Office
Photo: JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM / DeKalb County Sheriff's Office

UPDATE: Court hearing for Java Monkey arson suspect postponed

The man accused of setting a popular Decatur coffee shop ablaze appeared in court Thursday, but his hearing did not happen as planned.

The defense attorney for Rickey Hodges Thomas did not show up at the scheduled 1 p.m. preliminary hearing in the DeKalb County Magistrate Court. Judge Albert R. Sacks postponed the hearing to May 2, though that date could change.

Thomas, 28, was arrested April 1 after being wanted on an arson charge for about five months. Authorities said Thomas set fire to Java Monkey in downtown Decatur on Nov. 11, days after being fired from the business. He remains held at the DeKalb County jail.

At the rescheduled hearing, the judge will decide whether there is probable cause to move forward with the case, and also consider granting him a bond. A Decatur fire investigator will likely testify about the case.


» 5 months after Decatur fire, suspect arrested as coffee shop plans rebuild

» Ex-employee wanted in suspected arson at downtown Decatur coffee shop

» Downtown Decatur coffee shop closed for at least one month after fire 

The blaze damaged several nearby businesses that share walls with Java Monkey, including Tres Jolie dress shop and the restaurants Noodle and Fresh To Order. Tres Jolie and Fresh To Order have since reopened, while Noodle is wrapping up repairs and hopes to reopen before the summer.

Java Monkey, which was partly demolished, is in the planning stage and has not yet started repairs and renovations.

Thomas was arrested in East Point earlier this month after a woman he was living with called police and said Thomas had threatened her, East Point police Deputy Chief Russell Popham said. Thomas had also told the woman he was wanted for arson, Popham said. He was located walking near the home, and officers then found there was a warrant out for his arrest.

At Noodle, which shares a wall with Java Monkey, a worker does repairs on the restaurant’s outside patio last week. (Photo: J.D. CAPELOUTO/JDCAPELOUTO@AJC.COM)
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

According to the warrant, Thomas was seen on surveillance video at Java Monkey holding a stick that looked like a broom handle, which may have been used to break a window at the back of the coffee shop late on Nov. 11.

Thomas had seen legal trouble before the fire. After pleading guilty to a second-degree burglary charge in 2016, he entered the Felony Mental Health Court Program, an alternative sentencing program aimed at defendants struggling with mental health issues, court records show. However, he was removed from the program last year, but granted bond, after violating the program’s rules.

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