SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – A man who said he set a fire inside a Springfield sporting goods store to create a diversion and steal merchandise pleaded guilty today (11/2/23) and was sentenced to three years in prison.

According to a probable cause statement, Robert Ruffner set fire to clothing on a rack at Academy Sports, but officers were able to track him through the store and out the entrance exit.

Footage showed Ruffner entering the nearby Library Center. A manager at the library called the police and stated Ruffner was sitting at a computer.

Ruffner, 42, told police he was inside Academy and decided to “smoke a cigarette.” Police found no evidence of a cigarette at the scene of the fire.

Ruffner later admitted that he set the clothes on fire to shoplift some merchandise and this would be a diversion. He also admitted to police he just got off parole for first-degree robbery and spent nine years at the Department of Corrections.