MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — Seven suspects involved in setting off multiple fires in area Walmart stores appeared in federal court Friday morning. They were supposed to be sentenced, but that became delayed after more testimony was heard to help determine each person’s sentencing.
Jeffery Sikes, Erica Sikes, Sean Bottoroff, Jenna Bottoroff, Michael Bottoroff, Quinton Olson, and Alexander Olson appeared before U.S. District Judge Terry Moorer Friday morning.
Each is charged with one count of conspiracy to maliciously destroy by fire, and Jeffery Sikes and Alexander Olson are charged with malicious destruction by fire, according to a federal indictment.
The seven defendants pleaded guilty to the federal charges in 2022.
U.S. District Judge Terry Moorer spent the majority of Friday morning listening to more testimony to help determine each person’s role in the fires for sentencing.
Five of those defendants appeared in orange jumpsuits from the Baldwin County Corrections Center before the judge, as witness and co-conspirator Mikayla Scheele testified against Jeffery Sikes stating that he was the main conspirator.
Scheele admitted to being in a relationship with Sikes, and she testified that she was “pressured” to set fires inside the Walmart’s in fear of being killed.
Scheele also admitted to complying with law enforcement in hopes for a reduced sentence after questioning from Assistant United States Attorney Chris Bodnar.
Mobile Walmart employees also testified about the intense damage done to the store after the fires.
Senior Director John Wimsett said he “couldn’t believe it” and deemed the items in the I-65 Walmart Store a total loss. The store had to close for 14 days and required a special cleaning crew from Dallas, Texas to help the store re-open.
“This is what these actions caused for everyone at this store,” Wimsett said in the courtroom.
He says $8.5 million of merchandise was lost, and Alane Dekort who worked at the Walmart as their Digital Coach on Rangeline Road testified stating that she ran inside to help others evacuate.
She said employees were scared for their belongings and safety; inhaling a lot of smoke.
The sentencing hearing is set to continue next Friday afternoon with more testimony. Federal prosecutors are seeking $6.3 million in restitution.
Originally only five people were arrested in connection with the fires. Those five people are Jeffery, Sean, Michael, Quinton and Alexander. Erica and Jenna were not arrested until later.
Multiple Walmarts along the Gulf Coast were involved, including the I-65 Service Road location, the Rangeline Road location, a Gulfport store and a Biloxi store.