An Augusta man trapped his boyfriend inside the vacant home where they were staying early Friday and set it on fire before returning to the crime scene after the death, authorities said.
Ricky Chevez Cooper, 31, was charged with murder and arson in the horrific fire death of 34-year-old Luis Edgardo Gonzalez Jr., authorities said. Cooper is the same man given probation and community service last year after hospitalizing Gonzalez in a violent baseball bat attack.
Early Friday, Cooper argued with his boyfriend over where they were going to cook a turkey. They were both homeless and living in the run-down abandoned home on Huntington Drive. The suspect told cops he was tired of his boyfriend invading his “personal space,” authorities said.
Cooper barricaded the front door of the home on Huntington Drive using a large cooler with cinder blocks and a 50-pound weight, and he used an incendiary device and accelerant to start a fire in the rear of the home, authorities said. Firefighters rushed to the home just after 2 a.m. Friday for a fully engulfed home and eventually found the victim near the front entrance where he was trying to escape the fire.
Cooper quickly became a suspect since he had assaulted his boyfriend before and was a suspect in multiple arson cases around town, including fires started after he was banned from a hotel on Gordon Highway.
During Friday’s arson investigation, Cooper returned to the burnt home carrying a pair of bolt cutters. He had changed clothes, but he had fresh soot on his hand and two functional lighters. He also had a backpack with meth and syringes inside, leading to a drug charge.
In last year’s domestic violence incident, Gonzalez told authorities that his boyfriend struck him with a baseball bat inside their home on Moore Avenue. Officers observed a bruise mark and small lacerations on his right forearm and right calf area. Gold Cross responded to the scene and transported Gonzalez to the hospital.
Cooper was arrested weeks later, and Judge Monique Walker accepted a guilty plea and sentenced him to 12 months or probation, 20 hours of community service and $300 in fines.
The suspect was being held Friday night without bond at the Charles B. Webster Detention Center.