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Stuart man accused of torching his father’s home after beating him with a metal pipe

NewsStuart man accused of torching his father's home after beating him with a metal pipe

MARTIN COUNTY — After beating his father with a metal pipe, Reginald Chapman Jr. poured gasoline on him and attempted to light the injured 69-year-old on fire inside his Stuart home during a December attack, according to sheriff’s detectives.

Chapman Jr., 48, then started a fire in the master bedroom, engulfing the home in soot and ash, investigators reported.

He’s facing felony charges of attempted first-degree murder, first-degree arson and a misdemeanor charge of resisting an officer without violence, court records show. He’s being held at the Martin County Jail in lieu of $1.5 million bond.

A judge on Monday appointed a public defender to represent Chapman Jr., who has pleaded not guilty. His next court date is Feb. 7.

Sheriff’s officials identified the man who was attacked Dec. 9 as Chapman Jr.’s father, said Christine Christofek, a spokesperson for Martin County Sheriff’s Office.

Reginald Chapman Sr., the father, has been released from a hospital and has found an apartment to stay in temporarily, according to his nephew, Walter Chapman, of Texas.

Burn marks surround one of the the windows on the 495 Southwest Harbor Street home where sheriff's detectives say Reginald Chapman Jr. attacked his father and started a fire.

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What happened

Chapman Sr. told investigators his son had been living with him since Dec. 3 at his home in the 400 block of Southwest Harbor Street and was only supposed to stay for a few days, according to arrest records.

On the day of the reported attack, Chapman Jr. was yelling at his father in his kitchen when he went to the garage, grabbed a 20-inch metal pipe and began striking him in the head, face and back, the father later told a detective.

Investigators report the younger Chapman then got a gasoline container from the garage and, with a lighter in his mouth, began pouring it on his father, who managed to escape by running out into the street to get help from a neighbor.

The father’s injuries included fractures to his face and lacerations on his face, scalp and right elbow, and a minor fracture in his lower spine, investigators noted in arrest reports.

Responding deputies reported Chapman Jr. had fled on foot. When he was confronted nearby, he denied hurting his father or torching the home. A deputy used a Taser to subdue Chapman Jr. after he failed to follow orders, according to a search warrant application.

Martin County Fire Rescue responded to a house fire near Salerno Road on Friday afternoon.

He was treated at a hospital before being transferred to the Martin County Jail. Deputies found a cellphone and a blue Bic lighter on him. Reports show Chapman Jr. had injuries to his left knuckles and a scrape under his right eye.

During a search of the scorched house, arson investigators found a red plastic container in a heavily-damaged master bedroom that “appeared to be a small gas can.” The fire charred several windows and left soot and water damage throughout the home.

Troubled past

A review of court records show Chapman Jr. has had encounters with local law enforcement dating to the 1990s and has a history of mental health issues.

In 2007, he was acquitted by reason of insanity on charges of burglary of a dwelling and grand theft of an automobile in Stuart. A judge ordered he be committed involuntarily into the custody of the Florida Department of Children and Families for treatment.

A judge in 2017 ruled Chapman Jr. was incompetent to proceed to trial on charges of battery on a law enforcement officer and disorderly intoxication, court records show. He again was ordered into the custody of DCF for placement in a secured treatment facility.

On Sept. 15, 2020, Chapman Jr. was released from the South Florida State Hospital in Pembrooke Pines, court records show.

Hopes to rebuild

Chapman Sr. was in shock over his son’s brutal actions, Walter Chapman said Wednesday.

“… He told my dad when it was actually taking place that he started crying because he couldn’t believe his son was doing this to him,” Walter Chapman said.

Chapman Sr. is retired and has limited income, his nephew said.

Reginald Chapman Sr. plays guitar outside. Detectives say Chapman Sr. was attacked by his son Dec. 9.

The family has started a GoFundMe pspange to collect money for the elder Chapman to help rebuild his damaged home.

“He owns it outright, there was no lien or anything,” Walter Chapman said. “But because of his limited income, he couldn’t keep insurance on it. So the fire damage is not going to be covered by any kind of insurance.”

The house, he said, was a total loss.

He said the house was built by his grandfather in 1980 and later inherited by other family members until it was given to Chapman Sr.

Before he retired, Chapman Sr. was a mechanic and machinist. His work connected the family.

Walter Chapman said his uncle reassembled an engine for his restored 1967 Chevelle Malibu.

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