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Police say Georgia man set girlfriend on fire after breakup

By Mallory Simon
Court TV

Jomekia Pope is accused of dousing his ex-fiance with gasoline and setting her on fire.


Court TV
Domestic Violence

(COURT TV) -- Police in Macon, Georgia, arrested a man Monday who they say doused his girlfriend with gasoline and set her on fire after she broke off their engagement.

Jomekia Pope, a 29-year-old who has a history of domestic abuse, faces charges of aggravated assault and arson stemming from a horrific assault Sunday at his ex-girlfriend's home.

Latosha Taylor, 26, was in critical condition undergoing her third surgery Wednesday, her stepfather Harold Banks said. Taylor suffered second- and third-degree burns on more than 95 percent of her body.

Taylor, who has two children, Jada, 4, and Elicia, 8, worked two jobs, one as a nurse's assistant in Macon, and also took classes during the week to provide for her family.

Macon City Police Sgt. Cornelius Pendleton said the couple got into an argument Sunday regarding their relationship. Pope then poured gasoline on Taylor and the bed before lighting the fire, Pendleton said.

"She is a devoted and fantastic mother. Every day she's breathing is a good day," Banks said. "We are people of faith and we are going to get through this."

Banks said the argument began after a birthday party for Elicia. Pope was angry because Taylor had broken off their engagement, Banks said.

But this was not the first incident between the couple, police said. Banks said his stepdaughter called off the engagement because of earlier abuse.

Arson investigator for the Macon-Bibb County Fire Department Lt. Tom Musslewhite said because of the extent of Taylor's burns, it was difficult to tell what position she was in during the attack.

"She was probably lying on the bed after a long day of taking care of her kids, and that's when she was sloshed with gasoline," Musslewhite said.

Police said Taylor fled from the fire and ran an eighth of a mile to a neighbor's house for help. Although she was no longer on fire, witnesses said they saw billows of smoke trailing behind her.

Pope reportedly chased her down the street, shouting, "Her husband did it." He then fled the scene before police arrived.

As soon as he left, Taylor told a 911 dispatcher that Pope had set her ablaze, according to police.

"She told officers that he tried to kill her," Pendleton said.

A friend later reported Pope's location to police, and arranged for Pope to turn himself in Monday.

Pope has not confessed to the crime, but police say it is obvious he is responsible.

"He won't outright say anything," Pendleton said. "He's being extremely evasive during the interviews. However, it's quite clear he is at fault."

Musslewhite said he is still investigating the fire for more evidence. After police were notified, he said officers found an opened gas can outside the house, which they believe was the source of the fire. The door to the storage area where the can was normally stored was wide open, he said.

Late Monday, doctors told Pendleton Latosha had a 5 percent change of survival. By Tuesday, after more surgeries, her chance of survival rose to 10 percent.

Banks said he hopes this tragedy will raise awareness about domestic violence.

"This isn't just about my daughter," he said. "It's about everyone who has a daughter, and trying to make them more aware about this kind of abuse."

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