Melvin George Hood was convicted Thursday of aggravated battery and assault charges after a jury took only 20 minutes to deliberate his fate in a case involving a homeless camp off Noonday Church Road in Kennesaw.
Hood was among homeless people who lived in the camp last August when he became upset with his best friend, Raymond Mathews, and his former girlfriend, Wanda Kight. He then poured gasoline on Mathews and onto Kight’s tent, lighting both on fire, according to a release from District Attorney Vic Reynolds’ office.
Hood contended he was working on a generator at the time and that it blew up, causing the fire. The generator was found undamaged nearly 50 yards from the fire, the release said. Witnesses also testified that the fire broke out when Hood went near the tent after retrieving a can of gasoline.
“You cannot commit aggravated battery and aggravated assault, and expect to get away with it because you live a different lifestyle,” Assistant District Attorney Molly Gillis told jurors.
During the trial, Mathews and Kight testified the fire nearly ended their lives. Kight said she was rescued by another camp resident after being trapped in her tent, while Mathews said he spent nearly two months in a medically-induced coma.
Cobb Superior Court Judge Tain Kell, who presided over the trial, thanked the two for their courage and dignity.
“It sounds like, despite your circumstances, you had made a decent life for yourselves, and I admire you for that,” Kell said. “Life was hard for you already, and it’s harder now. … You did not deserve this.”
Kell sentenced Hood to 40 years, with 30 years to serve in custody, District Attorney Vic Reynolds’ office said.
Hood was sentenced as a recidivist, meaning he is not eligible for parole.