Man who robbed Palestine convenience store, set customer on fire gets life in prison

Police arrest suspect in armed robbery accused of duct-taping clerk, setting customer on fire

ANDERSON COUNTY, Texas (KLTV) - An Anderson County jury sentenced a 41-year-man who robbed the Pitt Stop convenience store in February of 2019 and then used lighter fluid to set a cashier and a customer on fire to life in prison.

According to a press release from the Angelina County District Attorney’s Office, the jury found Robert Lawrence Thompson guilty of two counts of aggravated robbery and one count of arson causing bodily injury.

“Mr. Thompson’s actions showed a wanton disregard for human life,” Anderson County District Attorney Allyson Mitchell said in the press release. “Both victims testified how his choices that day have forever changed their daily lives. Setting another human being on fire is truly horrifying. This was an intentional act. The most disturbing part of his crime is that after he started the fire and headed out the store, he stopped and stared at his victims while they screamed, and the customer burned.”

The press release stated that Thompson went into the Pitt Stop store on North Link Street on Feb. 21, 2019, to allegedly purchase tape. While he was in the store, he stole a bottle of lighter fluid.

Thompson left the store and returned 30 minutes later, the press release stated. He displayed a weapon when he entered the store and ordered the cashier behind the counter.

“He got a roll of Gorilla tape out of his pants and tied her up,” the press release stated. “When he finished tying her up, a customer came to the door. He pushed the customer into the store and forced her behind the count counter near the cashier.”

Police searching for Palestine robbery suspect.
Police searching for Palestine robbery suspect. (Source: KLTV)

After Thompson tied the customer up, he emptied the bottle of lighter fluid that he had stolen onto both women, the press release. At that point, he stole all the money from the cash register and set the customer on fire.

‘he then left the store after he paused to watch his victims burn,” the press release stated. “He then went to Shoe Carnival in Tyler and traded out his old shoes with a new pair, leaving his old shoes in the store.”

Thompson then headed back to Palestine. While he was in Frankston, he ordered the driver of the car he was in to pull over so that he could burn the clothes he was wearing when he robbed the store, the press release stated.

“He was apprehended at a local convenience store with the weapon in his possession,” the press release stated.

Mitchell and Assistant District Attorney Cari Wagner prosecuted the case in Judge Deborah Oakes Evans’ 87th Judicial District Court. Thomas was represented by Jeff Herrington.

“The Palestine Police Department did an excellent job in quickly solving the heinous crime,” the press release stated. “A life sentence in all three counts is appropriate for the crimes he committed.”

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