Feb. 10--A 52-year-old man pleaded guilty Monday to the 2013 arson murder of 61-year-old Cecil Ray Hepler in his Springfield home on Spearing Street, according to the State Attorney's Office.
Jimmie Ray Jackson Jr. also pleaded guilty to arson and burglary and faces up to life in prison when he is sentenced the week of March 3, according to prosecutors. Jackson has two prior arson convictions, one from Texas and the other from Pinellas County.
Hepler, Patrick Bishop and John Kenney were asleep inside the home on Sept. 8 when the fire was started, according to the police investigation. Kenney told police he smelled smoke and saw flames about 4 a.m. and jumped out of a window screaming "fire." Bishop ran out the front door and knocked on Hepler's window to alert him to the fire. But Hepler didn't believe him and died from burns and smoke inhalation after Kenney tried to pull him out.
Police said Jackson had a dispute with Hepler's family since 2008. Vengeance was the motive, but Hepler wasn't the specific target, police said.
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