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The Herald-Journal (Spartanburg, SC)
August 17, 1999
Author: CHRIS WINSTON; Herald-Journal
A Union County man was arrested Monday morning and charged with setting his girlfriend and their home on fire. Ronald Paul Torries, 39, of 935 Linersville Road, Buffalo, was charged with assault and battery with intent to kill and first-degree arson in the Sunday morning fire.
His girlfriend, Belinda K. Jett, 49, was in serious but stable condition at the Burn Center of the Columbia-Augusta Medical Center in Augusta, Ga., after undergoing surgery for severe burns on her upper torso. Union County Sheriff Howard Wells said that Torries doused Jett with alcohol before lighting tissue and throwing it at her. Torries, who is on antidepressant medication and under the care of the Union County Mental Health Department, is being held in the Union County Jail under suicide watch.
Wells said Torries will be taken to the Mental Health Department in Columbia for mental evaluation before being arraigned. “You have to be in a bad situation before you can even imagine yourself setting someone on fire,” Wells said. “That’s one of the most horrible things you can do to somebody.”
Jett’s son, Phillip, said he has told his mom to stay away from Torries for the entire year they’ve known each other. But nothing he has said has made a difference. “She’s real kind-hearted and likes seeing the good in people,” said Phillip Jett, who said his mom had just gotten a job with Cost Cutters in Gaffney. “I tried to tell her that he didn’t have any good in him, but she wanted to keep giving him more chances.”
The couple had another incident late last year while living in Jonesville, but neither of them had ever told Phillip Jett, he said. “Apparently, he roughed her up a little, but they kept it from me,” he said. “She would live with me and then get back on her feet. She just got a place on her own, and he moved in with her. “I knew there was something wrong with him. I knew he drank a lot. But I didn’t expect anything to ever get this bad.”
When sheriff’s deputies arrived at the couple’s home Sunday morning about 9:30 a.m., Jett told them Torries had started the fire and tried to kill her. When the deputies found Torries in the home, he had a rope around his neck and told them he had taken a lot of pills and expected to die. Torries was taken to the hospital, where his stomach was pumped and he was held overnight for evaluation. He was released into the custody of the sheriff’s department Monday morning. ”
Apparently he has been abusing Paxil, an antidepressant medication, with alcohol,” Wells said. Bonnie Wood, who has lived in the home across the street at 924 Linersville Road for 16 years, said she has never seen anything like the sight Sunday morning. Wood and her husband noticed the house across the street was on fire, and they went over to help put it out. “I knew them when they went down the road, but I didn’t really know them. I had no idea he was dangerous. That’s really scary,” said Wood, who said Jett had lived across the road since April. Wood, who took Jett across the street to call 911 and the police, said Jett told her that Torries planned to “torture her all day before killing her and then himself.”
While the ambulance was in route, Wood tried to care for Jett, who was severely burned on her back, shoulder, arm and neck. “She kept telling me that she was burning, and I was trying to cool her off,” Wood said. “That is an image that I will not forget. There was nothing I could do to make it any better.” Chris Winston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 582-4511, Ext. 7424. Record Number: 10B367F6A3986958