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Florida man charged with setting Anniston hotel on fire

A Florida man remained in jail Tuesday after he allegedly set a hotel room on fire the day before.

Anniston police charged Sheldon Thomas Phillips, 26, with first-degree arson and public intoxication.

The incident happened between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m., Lt. Tim Suits said, when Phillips set a room he had rented at the Royal Inn on McClellan Boulevard on fire and left.

Surveillance video shows smoke pouring out of the room, then Phillips running out, Royal Inn property manager Hollie Fennell said.

Suits said Phillips went to Brookwood Drive nearby and began pounding on someone’s door, causing them to call police. Police arrested him there, initially charging him with public intoxication

No one was injured and firefighters put the fire out quickly, according to Suits.

Fennell said firefighters also evacuated guests in the 25 rooms that had been occupied.

Anniston fire chief Jeff Waldrep said the damage was limited mainly to Phillips’ hotel room. Fennell said Phillips’ room had been destroyed and there was also smoke damage outside and to adjacent rooms.

Fennell said she didn’t know why he started the fire. The owner has been in the hotel business in Anniston for 20 years, Fennell said, and nothing like this has ever happened before.

Waldrep said the incident is under investigation by police, firefighters and state fire marshals. Fennell said they had searched Phillips’ room Monday.

Phillips was booked into the Calhoun County Jail with bond set at $30,000 for the arson charge. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for April 5.

First-degree arson is a Class A felony. If convicted, Phillips could be sentenced to life in prison and owe up to a $60,000 fine.

Contact Staff Writer Mia Kortright at 256-235-3563 or akortrig@gmail.com.

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