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Posted on: April 30, 2020

Arsonist gets three-plus years for Thanksgiving boat fire

This is Yimis Martell-Roman

KEY WEST, April 30, 2020 – A Key West man has been sentenced to more than three years in state prison after pleading out to burning down a boat at a marina while residents gathered for a holiday celebration.

Yimis Martell-Roman, 41, was sentenced to 37.05 months in state custody after pleading no contest to and being adjudicated guilty of arson of a dwelling, battery and criminal mischief. Prison will be followed by 36 months of drug-offender probation, which will be followed by 10 years of probation. Monroe County Circuit Court Judge Mark Jones handed down the sentence April 16 with Assistant State Attorney Cristy Spottswood representing the state. The case was officially closed April 21.

In addition to prison and probation, he must pay $106,313.59 in restitution to the marina where the boat was docked, write an apology letter to the boat owner and undergo a psychological evaluation, and treatment if recommended.

The fire destroyed the 41-foot liveaboard boat owned by Martell-Roman’s then-live-in girlfriend. It happened at the Sunset Marina on Stock Island on November 22, 2018, as marina residents were gathering to celebrate Thanksgiving.

Police were already at the marina when the fire broke out because the boat owner had called them earlier about Martell-Roman vandalizing the vessel. She told police the vessel’s interior was trashed, including broken glass strewn about. While speaking with her down the dock, an officer asked her to take him to the boat to view the damage.

While heading to the boat, a call came over the police radio about a vessel fire at the marina. When the officer and the victim walked around the marina store toward her boat, they saw her vessel ablaze. She started running toward it and the officer followed. Fire investigators later determined Martell-Roman used fuel from the victim’s dinghy to set the fire.

The victim told police that earlier, she had been at the marina Thanksgiving party, went back to her boat, saw Martell-Roman had been drinking and then went back to the party, thinking he would fall asleep. She later went back to the boat and saw Martell-Roman “begin destroying the area inside.” She went aboard to try to stop him, but he threw her onto the bed, then the toilet. She ran back to the party and returned to the vessel with two friends, only to find Martell-Roman, and her dinghy, gone.

Surveillance video from the marina viewed later, plus witness statements to back it, showed Martell-Roman hop a security fence with employee-only access behind the store after encountering marina residents and seeing police. Police later found him near an assisted-living facility on College Road, close to the marina. His wallet was later found on the dinghy but the fuel tank for the dinghy was gone.

A police report states “the video illustrates Roman to be in the exact time of events, which would place him at the time of the fire and that he purposely avoided police contact at the Sunset Marina store location by jumping over a restricted access and into the mangroves of the marina. Roman’s statements that he did nothing wrong are inconsistent and suspicious to any actions that a law-abiding person would have done.”

The Florida Bureau of Fire, Arson and Explosives Investigations did an extensive investigation into the fire and found it to be intentionally set.

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