A Louisiana man suffered serious burns when he tried to set fire to the New Orleans home of his estranged wife’s boyfriend, but succeeded only in accidentally setting himself ablaze.
Ernest Johnson, 43, was arrested Thursday, Oct. 11, and charged with aggravated arson and violation of a protective order, according to NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune, citing a spokesman for the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office.
Johnson’s wife, 38, told reporters no one in the house was injured by the flames. She has not been identified by name.
She said she was confused by Johnson’s actions.
“I’m more hurt than anything,” she said, according to the report. “For you to decide that you are mad with me and you rather not see me walk this earth anymore, I can’t wrap my mind around that.”
The two are going through a turbulent divorce, she said, but this was the first time things had escalated to the point where someone’s life was in danger. The woman said there had been arguments, that he had harassed her at work that he even grabbed her arm—but there had been no serious incidences of violence.
“That’s why I was so surprised,” she said.
Setting the Fire
Authorities investigating the case believe Johnson went to the woman’s boyfriend’s house at about 3 a.m. on Sept. 29, and tried to throw a Molotov cocktail inside.
Johnson’s wife said she has no doubt that her estranged husband knew she was inside the home as he prepared to hurl the fire bomb because her car was parked out front.
Johnson used a beer bottle filled with fuel and paper stuffed into the mouth, according to the report, and threw the bottle at the back door, allegedly intending to shatter the glass and ignite the home in which she was also sleeping.
The bottle reportedly bounced off the door, however, setting Johnson on fire.
“It wasn’t a breakable door. When he threw the bottle, he didn’t stand far enough away from it, and it engulfed him in flames,” she said.
Johnson’s wife received a phone call from one of his relatives around 8:30 a.m. informing her that he was at a hospital undergoing treatment for severe burns.
She said he had told his relatives that he’d been injured while lighting a cigarette in some sort of “freak accident” involving gasoline.
“That story never added up,” the woman said, adding that she was told he had burns on 60 percent of his body.
The woman’s boyfriend also found a broken bottle on the ground behind the house, a cigarette lighter, and burnt grass. There was also fire damage to the back door, according to the report.
“We put two and two together,” she said, and called the Sheriff’s Office. A warrant was issued for Johnson’s arrest.
Authorities took him into custody on Thursday and booked him at the Jefferson Parish Correctional Center, with a bond set at $150,000.
Citing court records, the NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune reported that Magistrate Commissioner Paul Schneider issued a restraining order barring Johnson from coming into contact with his estranged wife.