Gaetano Rodriguez of St. Petersburg has some legal problems: charges of possessing marijuana and MDMA, cultivating marijuana and obstructing firefighters without violence.
The 27 year old may also have family problems.
"The house is owned by his dad, the car he drives is owned by his dad, the business where he works is owned by his dad," St. Petersburg police spokesman Bill Proffitt said Tuesday, adding the father is not suspected in the criminal case.
The house in question caught fire Monday evening, apparently because of overloaded electrical wiring and extension cords. The police say those all connected to a marijuana grow house.
They seized about 100 plants of various sizes, long after firefighters encountered Rodriguez outside a locked bedroom.
"He wouldn't let them in, he wouldn't open the door," Proffitt said. "Finally, they had to physically remove him from the house to go fight the fire that was ready to destroy his house."
Neighbors saw smoke and little flames coming from the eaves and roof of the house and called 911. They also tried to alert Rodriguez.
"I ran around and he's peeking out the window at me, and I thought, well isn't that kind of strange," Melba Thompson recalled Tuesday, adding Rodriguez came out for a moment, then went back inside the house.
She described him as "... a nice young man, kept to himself, never bothered me or anything."
Thompson also remembered something unusual, in hindsight.
"I never even thought about it. My husband told me two or three weeks ago, he said you know, that back bedroom, he said, you know there's a lot of light coming out of that room."
Rodriguez posted $7,300 bond and was released from the Pinellas County Jail early Tuesday morning.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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