Florida man charged with arson after apartment explosion with neighbors home

Okaloosa County

VALPARAISO, Fla. (WKRG) — Police say 63-year-old James Scott Cordes intentionally blew up his apartment while his neighbors were home.

Ronald Cole, a neighbor says seven people were at home on Dec. 3 when the explosion happened. The Valparaiso Police Department (VPD) says that included an 18-month-old baby and an elderly man in a wheelchair.

“He basically blew it up because he was getting evicted,” Cole said.

VPD says Cordes was caught on camera leaving his apartment on Edge Avenue with gas cans.

“Three gas cans, he took them out, filled them up, came back and poured them over his apartment,” said Cole.

Police say Cordes then lit the fire and fled to nearby Lincoln Park, where police found him a day later.

“He jumped the back fence, ran down and he went to go down to Lincoln Park,” Cole said. “There is a deep ditch that runs through there and it was really muddy and he got stuck in the mud and couldn’t get out. That is where they found him 24 hours later.”

Cole says the landlord came by earlier that day with new apartment rules, Cordes, however, was served an eviction notice. Only one other unit suffered damage from the fire and everyone that was home got out safely. Cole says the arson charge is one thing but thinks he should be facing more.

“Seven of us could have died that day, and he didn’t care,” Cole said. “They were talking about first-degree arson, seven counts of attempted murder, child abuse, senior citizen abuse because the man in the wheelchair can’t get out by himself. They didn’t charge him with none of that.”

Cordes remains in the Okaloosa County Jail facing a first-degree arson charge with people present. He could face more charges as the investigation continues.

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