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Jacksonville man accused of beating ex-wife, then setting house on fire

by: Jenna Bourne, Action News Jax Updated:

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The man accused of beating his ex-wife and then setting their house on fire in Jacksonville’s Springfield neighborhood is still in jail for now.

A judge set 51-year-old Eugene Howard’s bond at $825,000 on Friday.

In court, his ex-wife’s sister couldn’t hold back her tears and kept whispering: “How could he do that to his kids?”

The family has set up a GoFundMe to help pay for the damage. 

Howard’s ex-wife told police they got in an argument over his cell phone, and he punched her repeatedly in the face, then got on top of her and kept punching.

“She came out the house, she was beaten pretty bad,” said the woman’s brother-in-law. “The boy just lost his mind. Period.”

He said their children ran across the street to him for help.

“I heard it in their voice. I couldn’t understand what they were saying. They were in hysterics,” said the brother-in-law.

Howard’s ex-wife and her mother ran to a neighbor’s house and called police.

While police were at the home responding to the reported beating, they noticed the fire.

The Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigations said two pets died in the fire.

In a cell phone video recorded by a neighbor on Thursday night, you can hear dogs barking as firefighters tried to put out the flames.

The woman’s family nodded along as the judge read Howard’s lengthy rap sheet out loud in court.

Howard is now charged with domestic battery, arson and intentionally causing a cruel death to animals.

Howard and the victim filed for divorce in 2015, but police said they still lived together in the home.