Man charged with arson after he locks mother, 72, in closet, sets house on fire

Gamaliel Geronimo Pedraza is accused of setting his mother's house on fire, holding her hostage and barricading both of them inside.
Gamaliel Geronimo Pedraza is accused of setting his mother's house on fire, holding her hostage and barricading both of them inside. (WPLG)

MIAMI, Fla. – A 36-year-old man who imprisoned his mother after setting her house on fire Sunday morning then threatened to kill himself by holding a knife to his own throat was in court Wednesday.

Gamaliel Geronimo Pedraza of Miami is charged with arson, attempted felony murder and false imprisonment.

Initial police reports were that a fire broke out inside a home at Southwest 305th Terrace near 160th Ave., but when officers arrived, they found Pedraza barricaded inside. His 72-year-old mother was also inside the home, where she could be heard crying out for help.

The woman told investigators that Sunday morning around 4 a.m. Pedraza came into the house and the noise woke her up. She told detectives she left her bedroom to greet him. After some time, he became agitated and would not stop talking, she said.

By 6 a.m., she said her son was ranting and becoming physically aggressive with her. Pedraza took her cell phone and keys so that she could not leave the house or call police.

He then shoved her into a bedroom closet, smothered her with clothing, blankets and towels, and locked the closet door where she was trapped for three hours, according to the victim.

At 9 a.m., the woman said she heard Pedraza breaking things in the house and started to smell something burning. She was able to finally free herself from the closet, left the bedroom, and saw that many of her belongings were on fire on the hallway floor.

She went to the front door to try to get out but was unable to because it was locked. By this time, officers had arrived and were able to pry open the door and the victim was able to get out.

Police said Pedraza also exited the house, but ran toward the street where he pulled a knife from his underwear. He stood in the middle of the roadway, put the knife to his neck and threatened to kill himself. He then ran into a neighboring back yard, still with the knife to his neck, continuing to make threats, according to a police report.

The incident led to a standoff between Pedraza and SWAT officers. They were eventually able to take the man into custody.

The victim was taken to Homestead Hospital where she was treated for a cut on her arm and smoke inhalation. She was later released.

Pedraza was evaluated at Jackson Memorial Hospital, where he was evaluated and was then transported to the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center.

He is being held without bond.

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