Thirty years ago today, a man firebombed a Winn Dixie in Clair Mel, burning dozens of shoppers, and killing five people.
It was one of the Tampa Bay area's deadliest crimes.
Investigators say John William Ferry Jr., known as Billy, walked into the store with a gas can, showered several check-out lines with fuel, and lit a match.
Among those killed were a 16-year-old girl who had just finished her junior year at Hillsborough High School.
A mother and her 4-year-old year old daughter also died.
Ferry, who suffers from mental illness, is serving five life sentences in prison -- one for each person who died in the fire.
One of the people killed included a cashier named Leigh Ann Carter. We spoke with her brother David Carter, who lives outside of Atlanta.
He says he wishes her killer had gotten the death penalty.
"To me as a taxpayer, I don't feel that paying for him to be alive when he snuffed out five innocent human lives -- it's not justified that we keep him alive. He still gets three meals a day," Carter said. "And I feel like Ferry deserves what he gave to the five people he killed, and that's a splash of gasoline, because that's the only justified outcome of this."
There have been differing reports about Ferry's motives. John Carter says it's because Ferry was upset the store had sold him spoiled cream cheese. Family members at the time described Ferry in newspaper reports as a "ticking time bomb" who had been unemployed and living in the woods for years.
Carter says Ferry told a cashier he was going to firebomb the place a week prior, and she told her managers, but they didn't take the threat seriously.
Ferry is currently incarcerated at the Union Correctional Facility in Raiford, FL, according to records from the Florida Department of Corrections. He is 60 years old.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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