Man who tried to set ex on fire sentenced

Adam Shigwadja listens during sentencing proceedings. (Sept. 14, 2015)


KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — A man who assaulted his ex-girlfriend and tried to set her on fire was sentenced on Monday to at least 29 years in prison.

Adam Shigwadja broke into the victim’s Kalamazoo home on Sept. 15, 2014 and attacked her. The victim, Sophia Putney-Wilcox, was 17 at the time. Shigwadja was 18.

At sentencing proceedings in Kalamazoo Monday, a judge ordered Shigwadja to serve two 175-month minimum prison sentences consecutively. He’ll spend between 29 and 60 years behind bars.

Putney-Wilcox spoke directly to her attacker during the proceedings.

Sophia Putney-Wilcox, whose ex-boyfriend tried to set her on fire, addresses the court during his sentencing. (Sept. 14, 2015)
(Putney-Wilcox addresses the court.)

“How could someone who claimed to love me want to hurt me so much?” she said. “I loved you, Adam. I would have never, ever dreamed of hurting someone that I loved.”

“Now I realize how manipulative and sick you are,” she continued. “I hope regret tears through you one day… I just wanted the Adam I thought I knew you could be… You would’ve never gotten better for me.”

Shigwadja, who looked on intently as the victim spoke in court, said he was sorry for what happened. He claimed he never meant to hurt the victim and only intended to set himself on fire to commit suicide the day of the attack.

“I loved her, but I never once did love myself. I loved her more than my own life. I was lost and wanted to die,” Shigwadja said, his voice quavering. “But with how things played out, Sophia was hurt and this was the result of how much I hated myself. The one person I wanted to give the most to. I could have lost it all.”

While still in a hospital bed the day after the attack, Putney-Wilcox told 24 Hour News 8 that Shigwadja broke into her family’s home and jumped out at her when she entered in her bedroom, threatening her with a knife.

“‘I’m killing you tonight,'” she recalled him telling her. “‘I’ve actually decided that.'”

She said he poured gasoline on some of her belongings and started a fire. Then, she said, he grabbed her and tried to throw them both into the flames. Her hair caught fire.

When her younger brother heard her crying, he came in with a bat. Shigwadja fled through the second-story window. He was arrested the next day.

She said she tried to break up with Shigwadja several times over the course of a couple of years but went back to him because she was afraid he would kill her. She said that while they were together, he was verbally and physically abusive, insulting her, choking her and threatening her with a knife on at least one previous occasion.

Shigwadja was convicted in August of several charges linked to the September 2014 attack, including arson and assault.

Demonstrators marched ahead of his sentencing on Monday to bring awareness to domestic violence. Many wore orange T-shirts that said “YWCA is on a mission.” They carried signs that read “Blame the System, not the Victim!” “#RespectSurvivors,” “Stand with Sophia” and other slogans.

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Online:

Safe Haven Ministries

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