Diena Thompson set Jarred Harrell’s house on fire Thursday as a part of her healing process. The mother of murdered 7-year-old Somer Thompson found great pleasure in throwing a flare inside the brick house where her daughter was molested, abused, and murdered by convicted killer Jarred Harrell back in 2009.
The fire was used as part of a training exercise for local firefighters in Orange Park, Florida. Thompson set the home ablaze and watched it burn with supporters around her.
Somer Thompson died at the house after she was lured inside by Harrell, then 24-years-old, while walking home from school. It was there the little girl lived her last moments in a house of horrors. She was sexually assaulted and smothered before Harrell dumped her body in the trash. Her corpse was discovered in a Georgia landfill days later.
Thompson tells the Florida Times-Union that she felt a sense of relief burning down house. It also empowered her.
“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.”
Harrell pleaded guilty to the girl’s murder and is serving a life sentence for first-degree murder, kidnapping, sexual battery, and lewd and lascivious conduct.
The house became vacant after the murder and went into foreclosure. The bank transferred the home to to Diena Thompson’s Somer Thompson Foundation. Diena then donated it to the Orange Park Fire Department for the training exercise. Part of the reason for Diena Thompson setting Jarred Harrell’s house on fire was to replace it with something nice. Although it’s not firmly decided what will be done, it’s possible a memorial garden will be there in Somer’s memory. Diena got tired of driving through the neighborhood and seeing the home where her daughter was killed. She wants people to look at something pretty when they think of Somer.
Diena Thompson called the experience “cathartic.” Orange Park Fire Chief Ty Silcox hopes that by participating in the training exercise it might “help her heal a little bit.”
Thompson was joined by hundreds of onlookers and family who were just as glad to see the home go as she was to see Harrell’s house go up in flames. Firefighters had placed bales of hay and pallets inside the home so that the fire would spread rapidly throughout the structure. In the end, it became a shell. It only took the fire one hour to char the house.
The day before Thompson set Harrell’s home on fire, she was allowed inside by firefighters with an axe. She split holes in a number of walls throughout the place as a way for her to unleash some frustration. She said it felt good to just destroy it in some way.
Thompson has three other children. She says it reminded her of how much she misses her slain daughter.
“It [the house] represents just evil. The devil was in there. There will never be closure. It will never be over. But I definitely feel like it will be part of the healing process, not just for myself but for the entire community just not to have to look at that hellhole.”
Diena Thompson set Jarred Harrell’s house on fire and it’s gone now, but she admits she’ll never have closure. What happened to her daughter will never be gone.
[Photo Source: Bob Mack/AP via NY Daily News]