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House Where Somer Thompson Killed Burns Down As Orange Park Community Watches

Fire fighters have burned down the home where a 7-year-old Orange Park girl was killed in 2009. The Somer Thompson Foundation arranged for the fire training exercise in Somer’s honor. The foundation now owns the property that belonged to her killer’s family.

Loud cheers erupted from the dozens of people gathered on Orange Park’s Gano Avenue. They watched as smoke billowed, followed by flames, from the one-story brick house where Somer Thompson was killed on her way home from school.

Donald Stone lives nearby and says his grandson and Somer were in the same class at school. He waited nearly four hours to see the house burn, he said.

“It should have been torn down the day afterwards, I think,” Stone said. “I think the only thing they’re doing wrong now: They should have him here, inside, in the chair, where he can’t get out.”

Jarred Harrell was 24-years-old at the time he killed Somer. He’s serving life in prison.

Somer’s mother, Deina Thompson, said, as soon as Harrell was charged, she knew what she hoped would happen to the house.

“I wanted them to burn it down,” she said, “cause they were taking care of a problem for me and I was helping them train.”

At the time of the crime, Harrell’s mother’s house was in foreclosure. The bank agreed to give the property to the Somer Thompson Foundation, an organization Deina Thompson started to prevent crimes against other children. And though she’s not ready to give specifics, Deina Thompson says the foundation has “pretty special” plans for the property once the house is gone. 

Jessica Palombo supervises local news gathering and production, podcasts and web editorial content for WJCT News, ADAPT and Jacksonville Today. She is an award-winning writer and journalist with bylines including NPR, Experience Magazine, and The Gainesville Sun. She has a master’s degree in broadcast and digital journalism from Syracuse University and is an alumna of the University of Florida. A nearly lifelong resident of Jacksonville, she considers herself lucky to be raising her own children in her hometown. Follow Jessica Palombo on Twitter: @JaxJessicaP