(UPDATE: The charges against David John Gherity were dismissed on June 16. According to Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom, further investigations “determined that Gherity has a substantiated alibi at the time this incident occurred. The matter remains under investigation at this time.” The original report follows.)
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A 60-year-old man is accused of setting his girlfriend on fire, causing her to lose an ear, slip into a medically induced coma and suffer a number of serious burns.
David John Gherity, of Burnsville, is charged with first-degree assault and first-degree arson in connection with the Feb. 9 incident.
According to the criminal charges, police were called around 2:44 p.m. on Feb. 9 to a condo on the 12000 block of Parkwood Drive in Burnsville on a report of a smoke alarm that was going off. Upon arrival, they encountered heavy smoke and a resident of the condo, later identified as Gherity’s girlfriend, sitting at a table on fire.
The fire was extinguished and the victim was transported to the Hennepin County Medical Center Burn Unit.
Police spoke with the victim’s sister who said, prior to the fire, she was contacted by her sister who left a voicemail saying her boyfriend of 10 years, Gherity — a former attorney — “has gone beserk. I can’t call now, I’ll call you later.”
The victim told fire department medical personnel that Gherity “lit the fire” and “tried to burn my house down.” The fire department reported alcohol bottles in the area where the victim was found, charring on the coffee table and on the bed, according to the complaint.
The victim’s sister told police she received a call from Gherity on Feb. 10 and asked him how this happened. He said he thought the nail polish, nail polish remover or hairspray the victim used started the fire.
Medical personnel reported that Gherity showed up at the hospital and smelled like smoke from a house fire and had soot on him. He told officials he was not at the fire but had checked the condo afterward.
Investigators revealed this was inconsistent with the building’s records of when he last entered.
On Feb. 23, the victim’s sister told police her sister was scared Gherity was going to be at the hospital and that she shook her head “yes” when asked if he was the one who did this to her.
Police were not able to interview the victim until March 4, due to the fact she was in a medically induced coma. During the interview, she said before the fire, she and Gherity were at the condo together, Gherity was stressed and she had been drinking and taking some medication. She said she fell asleep on the couch and woke up to the fire.
An analysis of the clothing the victim was wearing at the time of the fire reveled a mixture of accelerates, possibly hairspray and finger nail polish remover. The victim told police she hasn’t used hairspray for several months and does not use fingernail polish. She said the only hairspray in the condo was left there by Gherity’s mother, according to the complaint.
The victim is still in the burn unit at Hennepin County Medical Center and will remain there for an indefinite period of time. Her injuries include second-degree burns to her scalp and right hand and third-degree burns to her face, head, neck, upper right leg and lower left leg. She also lost an ear as a result of the burns.
If convicted, Gherity could spend up to 60 years in prison or up to $85,000 in fines — or both.