Mississippi teen admits to setting his dad’s house on fire; he faces potential life in prison

Published 9:09 am Monday, July 12, 2021

A Mississippi teen admitted to pouring lighter fluid around the home of his father and step-mother and setting the structure on fire.

Cornelius Hendrix, age 19, of Starkville, Mississippi, pleaded guilty July 6 to arson within special maritime and territorial jurisdiction.

The guilty plea was announced by Acting United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Jonathan F. Lenzner; Special Agent in Charge Timothy Jones of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Baltimore Field Division; Acting Special Agent in Charge Rachel Byrd of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Baltimore Field Office; and Fire Chief Trisha L. Wolford of the Anne Arundel County Fire Department.

According to his guilty plea, on August 21, 2020, Hendrix poured lighter fluid in areas of his father’s and stepmother’s Fort Meade military home, including outside his parents’ bedroom door, and the front door welcome mat. The presence of an ignitable liquid was also detected at the top of the stairs near his father’s and stepmother’s bedroom.

Hendrix then ignited a fire within the home before jumping off the rear porch and injuring his leg.

As stated in his plea agreement, the fire was extinguished with minimal property damage and no physical injuries. However, Hendrix’s father and stepmother’s lives were placed in jeopardy as a result of Hendrix’s conduct.

After being medically evaluated and cleared, Hendrix was taken to Fort Meade Military Police Department for an interview. Hendrix knowingly and voluntarily acknowledged spreading the lighter fluid and lighting the fire.

Hendrix faces a maximum sentence of life in prison for arson. U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake will schedule a sentencing hearing at a later date.

Acting United States Attorney Jonathan F. Lenzner commended the ATF, FBI, the Anne Arundel County Fire Department, the Howard County State Fire Marshal’s Office, the Fort Meade Fire Department and the Fort Meade Military Police for their work in the investigation. Mr. Lenzner thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Judson T. Mihok who is prosecuting the case.