FORT WORTH, Texas - The man accused of intentionally setting fires to trap a woman and two others inside a Fort Worth home has a long criminal history that includes charges for terroristic threats.
Courtney Smith, 39, was booked into the Tarrant County jail Monday morning and officially charged with arson, interfering with an emergency call and three counts of retaliation. His bond was set at $245,000.
The Fort Worth Fire Department said it all started early Saturday morning with a domestic disturbance that escalated.
Smith allegedly set fire to the front and back doors of a home on Hulen Park Circle in Fort Worth. He also torched his ex-girlfriend's car at that location.
Officials said Smith knew his ex-girlfriend, Dana Cotton, was inside the house at the time with a 19-year-old and 11-year-old. He allegedly tried to prevent them from getting out because he was upset that she was ending their relationship.
Abby Castillo was outside of her house smoking a cigarette when she saw flames. She ran over to Cotton's home and began banging on the door to wake them up.
Cotton said she and the two teens were inside of her home sleeping when she heard someone banging on the front door.
"Then I heard her voice, and it was with urgency," she said. "And then I looked out the window and then I had seen like orange colors, and it was my car on fire."
"And that's when I rushed over here, and I saw this was on fire. So I kicked the door, banged on the window. I was about to break the window with my elbow," Castillo recalled. "Kicked the door until she finally got out. Went back in there. Checked to make sure everybody was out."
"We didn't know each other, but she seen the fire and she came and she saved our life," Cotton said.
"I was going to do whatever it took to get her out. Whoever was here," Castillo said. "I didn't know who lived here."
Cotton explained that she and Smith knew each other in high school 20 years ago and had recently reconnected on Facebook. The two briefly dated over the past few months, but Cotton said when she tried to end the relationship, Smith began making threats.
The night before, Cotton had called 911 on Smith. She said he was drunk, had been making threats and tried to stop her from calling 911. Officers arrived at the house and made him leave.
Hours later, investigators said Smith returned to the home and set the fires. Police said they were able to track his movements after the fires were set by looking at nearby surveillance cameras.
Officers found Smith at a home on Switchgrass Road in Arlington the next day. Witnesses said SWAT team members called out to him on a loudspeaker for about 15 minutes before ramming the front door and breaking a window. He eventually came out and was arrested.
"Our arson investigators were able to quickly put together a lot of evidence and with the assistance of Fort Worth and Arlington police departments take a suspect into custody without incident. And we're just thankful that nobody was hurt," said Mike Drivdahl with the Fort Worth Fire Department.
Smith has a criminal history that includes arrests for DWI, assault, theft, theft of a firearm and marijuana possession. He was also charged for making a terroristic threat to a household in October and December 2014.
Officials said Smith and his ex-girlfriend are not the parents of the children who were in the house.