Timothy D. Dingle will spend the rest of his life with the state Department of Corrections.
A jury convicted the 53-year-old Sumter man on Wednesday of two counts each of murder and first-degree arson for the March 2012 apartment fire that ultimately killed 10-year-old Aalyiah Jackson and her 11-year-old brother, Robert. Third Circuit Judge George C. "Buck" James gave Dingle two concurrent life sentences to be followed by two concurrent 30-year sentences.
"I can't imagine the pain (their) parents have went through and will continue to go through," James told Dingle during sentencing. "I know this decision won't come close to making them or the family feel better, but maybe it will provide some closure."
Third Circuit Solicitor Ernest A. "Chip" Finney and Assistant Solicitor John P. Meadors presented more than 10 witnesses across three days at the Sumter County Judicial Center to show Dingle had deliberately set a fire in three separate places in the upstairs of Elizabeth Young's unit at Lantana Apartments on Carolina Avenue on March 27, 2012. Multiple witnesses — including Young's oldest children, Anastasia and Trymaine Young — said Dingle had repeatedly threatened Young throughout the day before the fire was set.
"I'm going to burn this b---- down," Dingle reportedly said as Young left to visit her goddaughter late that evening. "If you don't get your a-- back here, I'm going to burn this s--- up."
Dingle, witnesses said, had a penchant for drinking early in the day and getting angry when he didn't get his way. He had reportedly asked Young to move in with him with her youngest children. Young had resisted, according to Trymaine Young.
About 30 to 45 minutes after Elizabeth Young and her eldest children left the apartment to visit the woman's goddaughter down the street, they heard sirens and then saw fire trucks barreling down the road. Firefighters rescued Aalyiah and Robert from an upstairs bedroom that the two shared, but they died four days later at separate hospitals.
State Law Enforcement Division Special Agent Sterling Seals testified Tuesday that the children's room likely exceeded 500 degrees during the fire. He ruled out any accidental cause for the blaze, saying it started in three separate places.
"And you heard the testimony that had those three separate fires met up in the upstairs portion of the apartment, there would have been no way out for the children," Finney said during closing arguments. "(Dingle) knew those children were in the bed. He wanted to send (Elizabeth Young) a message. A theme among all these witnesses is that (Dingle) wants it his way, and Lord help you if he doesn't get it."
Finney told James he was "glad for the verdict."
"I will tell the court that I was at the children's funeral on April 5, 2012," Finney said. "I have never been in a place with so much emotion and conflict, mainly because here we had a man who had taken care of these children now accused of taking their lives."
Betty Smalls, one of Dingle's sisters, said Wednesday that her brother seemed quite fond of the children.
"He acted more like he was their father," Smalls told jurors during questioning by Sumter Public Defender Tim Murphy.
James said the incident arose because Dingle "couldn't control not having control."
"Many times it happens that someone fueled by alcohol has a fit or a temper tantrum ... leaves a trail of disaster and heartache," James said.