A man who robbed a Palestine convenience store and set a customer on fire has been sentenced to life in prison.
An Anderson County jury sentenced Robert Lawrence Thompson, 41, to life for two counts of aggravated robbery and one count of arson causing bodily injury. He pleaded guilty to all charges on Feb. 10, according to a news release from the Anderson County District Attorney Allyson Mitchell.
Thompson went to the store, Pit Stop, on North Link Street, on Feb. 21, 2019, to allegedly purchase tape. In the store, he stole a bottle of lighter fluid. He then left the store and came back 30 minutes later with a weapon brandished, the release stated.
Thompson ordered the cashier to get behind the counter. He used Gorilla Tape, a reinforced duct tape, to tie her up. When he finished, a customer came in the door, and he forced her behind the counter and tied her up as well, according to the district attorney’s office.
He used the stolen lighter fluid on both women, set the customer on fire and stole all the register’s money. After pausing to watch the woman burn, Thompson left the store, the release said.
The customer, Della Witt-Denizeri, was treated at a burn center in Dallas and recovered from the incident, according to our news partners, KYTX CBS-19.
Thompson then went to Shoe Carnival in Tyler to get a new pair of shoes and leave his old pair in the shoe store. He headed back to Palestine. While in Frankston, he forced the driver of the car he was in to pull over so he could burn the clothes he was wearing during the robbery.
Law enforcement apprehended Thompson, who still had the weapon, at a local convenience store, according to the news release.
“Mr. Thompson’s actions showed a wanton disregard for human life,” Mitchell said.
“Both victims testified how his choices that day have forever changed their daily lives. Setting another human being on fire is truly horrifying. This was an intentional act. The most disturbing part of his crime is that after he started the fire and headed out the store he stopped and stared at his victims while they screamed and the customer burned.
The Palestine Police Department did an excellent job in quickly solving this heinous crime. A life sentence in all three counts is appropriate for the crimes he committed.”
Mitchell and Assistant Criminal District Attorney Cari Warner prosecuted the case. Thompson was represented by Jeff Herrington and 87th Judicial District Judge Deborah Oakes Evans presided over the trial.