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Arsonist who targeted Savannah’s historic Gryphon Tea Room sentenced to federal prison

A Savannah man has been sentenced to five years in federal prison for setting fires in a historic Savannah restaurant.

Employee set six fires in restaurant’s dining area

A Savannah man has been sentenced to five years in federal prison for setting fires in a historic Savannah restaurant.

Pro Roof GA

Chase Anthony Davis, 31, of Savannah, was sentenced to 60 months in prison in U.S. District Court, said Bobby L. Christine, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. Davis also will be required to serve a period of supervised release after completion of his prison term. There is no parole in the federal system.

A federal jury convicted Davis in October 2019 on an arson charge after a three-day trial. According to evidence presented at trial, on the evening of May 8, 2019, Davis, then an employee of the Gryphon Tea Room, broke into the landmark restaurant located at 337 Bull Street in Savannah’s Historic District. Davis set six separate fires in the dining room area of the restaurant owned by the Savannah College of Art and Design. The fires self-extinguished, and the property damage caused to the restaurant has since been restored.

Gryphon shares space with The Arts Café and The Scottish Rite Temple and is closely connected with numerous historic residential structures and St. John’s Episcopal Church. It is housed in an adapted early 20th century apothecary constructed between 1913 and 1926.

“This bungled arson could have caused tremendous physical and cultural damage to historic structures in Savannah,” said U.S. Attorney Christine. “Fortunately the tablecloths were fire-retardant, and the Savannah Fire Department quickly took care of the rest and kept any damage to a minimum. And now the arsonist will have considerable time behind bars to ponder his felonious folly.”

“This is another example of how ATF partners with our state and local agencies to fight violent crime, including the crime of arson,” said Lenwood Reeves, Resident Agent in Charge of the Savannah Field Office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). “Arson not only does millions of dollars’ worth of damage each year but it endangers the lives of innocent bystanders, firefighters and first responders battling to extinguish these fires. This small fire could have very easily escalated into a major catastrophe, including the loss of life and property.”

This case was investigated by the ATF and the Savannah Police Department, and was prosecuted for the United States by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joshua Bearden and Jenna Solari.

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