LIMA — A homeless man charged with arson and attempted murder for starting a fire that destroyed a downtown Lima landmark earlier this year pleaded guilty Friday to reduced charges.
Jeffrey England, 40, will be sentenced Dec. 1 after accepting a deal from prosecutors that called for him to plead guilty to two counts of aggravated arson, felonies of the first degree, in exchange for the dismissal of two attempted murder counts.
England was indicted by a grand jury in connection with the June 23 fire that destroyed a vacant building at 122 N. Elizabeth St. that once housed the Roxy Food & Spirits establishment. The grand jurors determined that England “did purposely attempt to cause the death” of Michael Adkins and Matthew Peddicord, who were also living in the abandoned structure at the time of the fire.
England first told investigators he started the fire accidentally when he failed to extinguish a cigarette, then later changed his story and said he had hoped to kill himself in the blaze. Eventually England told detectives he set fire to a blanket and then a mattress in an attempt to kill the two men inside the building.
Firefighters were dispatched to the scene and found heavy fire and smoke coming from multiple windows on the third floor of the vacant building. Firefighters began an offensive attack on the fire but were forced to retreat after the building was deemed to be unsafe for firefighters to enter.
According to earlier statements by Detective Brian Snyder of the Lima Police Department, England was squatting in the vacant building, living there with at least Adkins and Peddicord. After being seen leaving the scene of the fire, England walked into the LPD and admitted starting the blaze.
The building has since been demolished, and all that remains in a grassy lot.