By RaShayla Daniels
A 34-year-old man who said he went to prison for murder when he was 14 years old, has been charged with arson.
It took firefighters 20 minutes to extinguish an explosion and fire at the Midway Park Townhomes on 27th Street and York Avenue in Lubbock on Aug. 19.
Donovan Osby, an African-American male found at the scene, was booked Aug. 22 for allegedly starting the fire, according to the police report.
The 34-year-old said he used to share the home with alleged victim Gabriel Heintz, who was not home at the time.
“For the first time in my life I’m completely innocent,” Osby said.
Osby, a native of Post, Texas, said he was convicted in 1994 for kidnapping, beating, then fatally shooting a man he said sexually assaulted his female friend. He said after serving 18 years in the penitentiary it would be stupid to jeopardize his freedom.
“I’m afraid of fire,” Osby said. “So the whole concept of me starting one is ludicrous.”
Osby said he returned to the home at 5027 27th St. to bring by a TV Heintz wanted to sell. He said he was heading out the door when the house exploded.
Barbara McNutt-Reimann, who lives in the neighborhood, said she heard the explosion from her home across the street.
“I went outside and there was so much smoke,” McNutt-Reimann said, “black as black could be with flames 25 feet tall! That’s scary!”
The fire marshal and peace officer on the case would not comment due to the pending investigation, however McNutt-Reimann said she spoke with the fire marshal at the scene. She said he told her he had reason to believe the fire was arson, but he did not said why.
The 73-year-old said she is not surprised the house exploded. She said Heintz threw a big party the Friday night before the incident, which she said Osby attended.
She said she saw several people carry in beer bottles and large bottles of liquor in to the house.
“I think all that alcohol is what caught fire and exploded,” McNutt-Reimann said.
McNutt-Reimann said Heintz complained to neighbors about a broken air conditioner. When he could not afford to fix it he threatened to move out by the middle of the month, she said.
“Too many things add up to say it was arson,” McNutt-Reimann said.
Osby denied the accusations saying he did not own the house, and Heintz was still in the process of purchasing it from the woman who did, so neither could profit from the damages.
Osby said he had not known Heintz long — only a few months before becoming roommates at the townhome six to seven months ago.
Janice Ellison, an elderly woman living directly across the street from the scene of the fire, said she did not know Heintz, the man buying the house, but she knows Osby.
Ellison, a diabetic who uses an electric wheelchair for mobility, said Osby was helpful.
She said her next-door neighbor is diabetic also, and when he left his kit outside one day, Osby brought it to Ellison.
“It had money in it and everything else,” Ellison said, ”along with his insulin. But he brought it to me and said he knew it belonged to this man.”
Ellison said she encountered Osby a few times and thought he was nice as could be.
Ellison said Osby told her he was a weight trainer and offered to help her and her daughter, who was also uses a wheelchair, whenever necessary.
She said though Osby seemed like a nice guy, she backed off a little when a neighbor warned her of his past criminal record.
Osby said he is a good person, but his past and the media have labeled him for life.
He said he has paid a lot for what he did when he was 14 years old — referring to the death of his mother while he was in jail, not being able to be there for his siblings who lacked a father figure, and not being able to live a normal adolescence.
Osby said his experience gives him a platform to make a difference in the community. He said he goes to schools like Estacado High and Coronado High to talk to the students about what he has gone through, and encourages them to stay out of trouble.
“I’m not an arsonist,” Osby said. ”I know I’m not going to get found guilty because this time I’m innocent.”
“Goodness will prevail.”
Osby is incarcerated at the Lubbock County Detention Center where he awaits trial. His bail is $50,000.