The fire didn’t fix the pain or change anything that happened inside the Orange Park home, which was the scene of one of the most horrific crimes the city has ever seen, but it felt good to many. This was especially true for Diena Thompson, whose seven-year-old daughter Somer was brutally murdered by Jarred Harrell inside that home in 2009, according to WFMY News 2 on Feb. 13.
The Somer Thompson Foundation owns the home, which is an organization that’s headed by Diena Thompson. She contacted the Orange Park Fire Department and asked if the home could be destroyed but at the same time provide some use to the community, like a training fire for the department.
The fire department took Diena up on her offer and yesterday a crowd gathered as the house went up in flames. As WFMY suggests, “it was a cathartic bun with a purpose for Diena,” as inside the home on Gano Avenue, her little girl lost her life at the hands of a killer.
The firefighters let Diena set the fire with a flare and as she watched she said “Burn baby, burn,” according to Jacksonville.com today. Little Somer Thompson was lured into this house back in 2009 by Jarred Harrell when she was walking home from school.
Somer’s body was found dumped in the trash, but she was sexually assaulted and smothered at the hands of a man, who Diena is calls “a monster” today. At the time Harrell was 24 and he plead guilty to the slaying. He is currently in prison for life for first-degree murder, kidnapping, sexual battery and lewd and lascivious conduct.
The home had belonged to Harrell’s mother in the past, but it was foreclosed on and the bank transferred the title of the house to the foundation. The foundation then donated the house to the Orange Park Fire Department to embark on this training exercise while burning the house to the ground.
Once the land is cleared, it is possible a memorial garden will be created on the site, but nothing has been officially decided as of yet as to the use of the land. The house being reduced to ashes is just one small part of this healing journey for Diena, her family and the town.
Thompson said, “I get to burn their house down. I’m the big bad wolf this time knocking down your door, not the other way around. It’s really nice to know that I’m not ever going to have to drive in this neighborhood again and see this piece of trash.”
Orange Park Fire Chief Ty Silcox said that he “thought it was appropriate to allow Thompson to participate in the burn in some way.” Many would say it was a brave thing for the mom to do, as it couldn’t have been easy standing on the property where her daughter left this world in such an evil way.