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2 dogs killed after burglar sets fires in home

Posted at 5:27 PM, Dec 28, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-28 18:00:52-05

A Barberton man is accused of burglarizing a neighbor's home on Christmas day and then setting fires that killed two family dogs.

Justin Garrett, 32, is charged with aggravated arson, burglary and felony drug abuse possession.

He appeared in Barberton Municipal Court on Monday afternoon and remained in the Summit County Jail on a $25,000 bond.

Police said Garrett pried open the back door to a home on East Ford Avenue and stole a TV and a power cord.

Lt. Brian Jamison said Garrett then set three fires in the basement and on the first floor.

It appears smoke from the fires killed a 7-year-old Shih Tzu named Sophie and a 4-year-old Havanese Maltese named Charlie.

The owners of the dogs, Raymond and Rae Lynn Johnston, are heartbroken especially since their 18-year-old daughter, Ronni, adored the pets. She has Down syndrome.

"How do you explain to her because she doesn't know death? She doesn't know any of that and how do I tell her when this is all said and done that Sophie and Charlie are not coming back? Right now, we're just telling her that they're sleeping," said Rae Lynn Johnston.

Mrs. Johnston said she has known Garrett for much of his life and he recently moved next door to live in the basement of his grandfather's house.

Earlier that day, she had wished Garrett a Merry Christmas and can't understand why he would start fires in her home.

"I want him to be charged for killing my dogs. I know they're only animals, but those were my babies and he deliberately let me dogs die," she said. "Why the fire? You did not take anything worth what damage you've done."

Jamison said Garrett offered an alibi during an initial neighborhood canvas following the arson.

However, a short time later, police spotted Garrett carrying a big black bag and walking towards a back fence in his grandfather's yard.

When an officer tried to approach him, Garrett took off running, Jamison said.

A short time later, Garrett was captured by Sgt. Brian Davis and charged with the crimes.

Jamison called the case "terrible" and was pleased it was solved quickly.

"I can't understand why anyone would do it to begin with, but much less on Christmas," he said.

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