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Victoria man arrested on suspicion of arson

By Jessica Priest
Feb. 20, 2014 at 6:03 p.m.
Updated Feb. 20, 2014 at 8:21 p.m.

Damage to a home in the 2400 block of Ozark Street that caught fire on Wednesday morning.

Barbara Ross is thanking God.

It was God, she said, who alerted a neighbor to the smoke coming from Ross' home Wednesday in the 2400 block of Ozark Street.

It was God who knew to send that one neighbor who always happens to have buckets of water lying around.

"The Lord was just with us that morning. ... It could have been much worse," Ross said Thursday afternoon while surveying the back right corner of her one-story, white home, which is charred.

Ross, 59, her granddaughter, her nephew and her nephew's daughter were inside sleeping about 7:30 a.m. Wednesday when the neighbor banged on their door.

The man officials think is responsible for starting the fire, Desrick Johnson, 25, was arrested on suspicion of arson. He was in the Victoria County Jail on Thursday night without bond.

Ross said she has seen Johnson before. He began hanging out in her front yard about a month ago and has dropped by several times to ask her nephew for money to fill up his car with gas, she said.

"But him and my nephew have been having some problems about a girl," Ross said.

She believes those problems came to a head Wednesday and worries whether someone else will stop by with a lighter.

"He (Johnson) ran across my neighbor's yard, but he got back to his hotel room too quick. Someone had to have been on the other street helping him or driving him," she said.

Another neighbor said that before the fire started, a black man approached her and asked for a lighter.

The neighbor said the man was carrying a red plastic gas can, and she said she saw him running from the house after she saw smoke, according to an arrest report.

Johnson's ex-girlfriend also said she believed he set the fire.

When Victoria police pulled up his picture on a computer in a patrol car, she identified him. Police and the Victoria Fire Marshal's Office then tracked Johnson to a room at Best Value Inn, 3901 Houston Highway, where he was arrested.

Ross said the voicemails she heard Johnson leave on her nephew's phone were also incriminating.

"Then, he called back (my nephew) and said, 'Yeah, I set the house on fire,'" Ross said.

Her nephew asked him to repeat himself and held the phone up to an officer's ear, she said.

Ross said the family is not seeking donations because no items inside were damaged.

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