Ulysses Rivera, III, has just been found guilty as charged of First Degree Arson and nine counts of Attempted Second Degree Murder. The defendant broke into a Bonita Springs home, threatened his tenants, and then set the home on fire.
The jury returned the verdict this afternoon, following a four-day trial in Lee County. Assistant State Attorney Tyler Lovejoy, Lee County Felony Division Circuit Court Chief, and Assistant State Attorney Erin Hughes, of the State Attorney’s Office Special Victims Unit, prosecuted the case.
On December 31, 2022, at approximately 11 p.m., the defendant arrived at the home he rented out and used a knife to pry open a door. The defendant took money from the residents and left.
He came back a short time later and kicked the door down. He was carrying a gas can and began pouring gas all over the house. The gas was lit, causing a loud explosion sound, and a fire erupted. The defendant fled out the front door, closing it, trapping the occupants inside behind the flames.
Some of those inside were sleeping until they heard the boom. Others were awakened by the smell of smoke or fellow roommates waking them. Everyone escaped by climbing out bedroom windows. One victim was burned all over his body by flames, as the fire came under the door of his bedroom, and others suffered moderate burns in the fire.
The Lee County Sheriff’s Office and Bonita Springs Fire Department responded to the scene. First responders assisted the victims and the fire was also put out. Deputies then located the defendant at a nearby home and executed a search warrant. During questioning, the defendant admitted frequenting the house and demanding money from the occupants so he could buy beer and cigarettes.
Rivera was arrested for the crime along with his uncle, Orlando Rivera, who was charged, but died prior to trial.
Sentencing is scheduled for February 26, 2024.
Samantha Syoen – Communications Director, State Attorney’s Office