A Columbia man was sentenced to 70 years in prison for committing a “horrific crime of domestic violence,” the 11th Circuit Solicitor said.
Robert Rome Green, 48, doused his sleeping ex with gasoline and set her on fire, the solicitor’s office said Monday in a news release.
Last Friday in a Lexington County courtroom, Green was convicted on charges of attempted murder and first-degree arson after a five-day jury trial, according to the release.
Circuit Court Judge Debra McCaslin sentenced Green to 30 years in prison on the attempted murder charge, and 40 years on the count of arson, the solicitor’s office said. The sentences will be served consecutively, and Green is not eligible for parole, according to the release.
On Aug. 20, 2019, the woman was asleep in her Cayce home in the 700 block of Lexington Avenue when Green entered her bedroom armed with a gas can and lighter, the solicitor’s office said. That’s about a mile from the Blossom Street bridge and the Congaree River.
During testimony, the victim said she woke to Green pouring gas on her, and struggled to get away but was overpowered by her ex, according to the release.
While holding her down, Green then put a lighter to her face and ignited it, the solicitor’s office said.
Although she was engulfed in fire, the victim ran away to a neighbor’s home for help, where multiple people came to her aid and called 911, according to the release.
“A neighborhood security camera captured the victim’s screams and the frantic sound of knocking on a neighbor’s door,” it said in the release.
The victim was severely injured with 2nd and 3rd degree burns to over 60% of her body — including her face, scalp, torso, back, abdomen, and arms, the solicitor’s office said. She was rushed to the Prisma Richland Trauma Unit and then transferred to the Joseph M. Still Burn Center in Augusta for critical care treatment.
She remained hospitalized in Augusta for more than four months, spending the majority of that time in critical condition and on a ventilator, according to the release.
She sustained permanent burns and underwent multiple skin grafting procedures, the solicitor’s office said.
The incident was “an incredibly tragic and horrific crime of domestic violence,” 11th Circuit Solicitor Rick Hubbard said in the release. “This sentence sends a powerful message that crimes of brutality against women will not and cannot be tolerated in our community. No human being should ever experience violence of this nature.”
Green ran away shortly after law enforcement and first responders arrived to battle the blaze at his ex’s flame-engulfed home. But not before a neighbor testified seeing Green standing in the front yard, yelling “Take me to jail!” as the victim was on fire and ran away.
South Carolina Law Enforcement Division arson investigator Allen Lloyd testified that an accelerant was located in the master bedroom of the victim’s home, and that arson investigators recovered a red gas can which later tested positive for the presence of an accelerant. A lighter was discovered in the pocket of Green’s shorts, according to the release.
During the sentencing hearing, the victim addressed the court and said “no creature on this planet should go through or suffer in the manner that I, my family, and friends have.”
This case was investigated by the Cayce Department of Public Safety and prosecuted by deputy solicitor Suzanne Mayes and assistant solicitor LeAnna McMenamin. Green was represented by the public defender’s office, according to Lexington County court records.
Following the trial, the victim shared pictures of her injuries in an effort to bring awareness to others who might be experiencing domestic conflict or abuse.
“We continue to be inspired by the strength and courage of the victim,” Mayes said in the release. “She has persevered through unimaginable circumstances. First, she fought for her life and won. Now, she has traveled a long and painful path to achieve justice and prevailed.”
If you or someone you know is in need of services or experiencing domestic violence, you may reach the Sistercare Crisis Line at 803-765-9428.
This marked the first jury trial of the year following the court ordered closure of proceedings because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and all parties followed safety guidelines throughout the trial for protection from the coronavirus, according to the release.