COVINGTON, La. -- A Covington man allegedly set his own house on fire to garner more media attention after appearing on an Eyewitness News report last year.
Rod Francis Davis, 32, was booked with arson with intent to defraud and cruelty to an animal.
On July 6, a fire started after a home on South Lakeshore Drive, north of Covington, was struck by lightning. Four dogs had to be rescued from inside.
Reporter Tania Dall covered the story for Eyewitness News. About 25 seconds into the report, Davis is seen walking in the background during an interview. He's wearing dark-colored shorts and a t-shirt.
The next day, on July 7, firefighters responded to a blaze at Davis' home at 75350 Horse Branch Rd. Davis returned home as the firefighters were working the fire and ran into the home to rescue his own dog, according to St. Tammany Fire Department spokesman James Hartman.
Hartman said Davis' behavior was "suspicious," and Davis reportedly asked several times when television crews would arrive to interview him. An investigation was launched, and during that time Davis repeatedly attempted to apply for a job with the department or to become a volunteer firefighter, Hartman said.
Davis eventually confessed to starting the fire, both to fund a gambling addiction and for the media attention a residential fire would draw. He said he intentionally left his dog inside the home before starting the fire, so he could go back and rescue it. He told officials he believed this would have added credibility to the story.
"Crimes like this are particularly offensive for a variety of reasons," said FD12 Chief Darrell Guilott. "Not only did Mr. Davis allegedly defraud his insurance company, which affects insurance costs for everyone, but he endangered his entire neighborhood. He endangered an innocent animal. And he endangered our firefighters. There is no excuse for any of that."