Man Charged in Deadly Elevator Torching

He was apparently angry that she owed him $2,000, police said.

The man suspected of dousing a 73-year-old woman with gasoline and then setting her on fire inside her Brooklyn apartment building elevator has been arraigned on charges of murder and arson.

Jerome Isaac, of Brooklyn, was arraigned Monday in the death of 73-year-old Deloris Gillespie.

His lawyer requested solitary confinement and medical attention and did not speak outside court.

The 47-year-old Isaac reeked of gasoline when he entered a police station overnight and implicated himself in Gillespie's death, NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said Sunday.

Gillespie was ambushed in the elevator of her Brooklyn apartment building on Saturday afternoon, Browne said. The suspect had been waiting for her when the elevator doors opened to the fifth floor of her building in Prospect Heights, police said.

"It was apparent he knew she was on the elevator," Browne said.

After setting Gillespie ablaze, Isaac went to his apartment building just blocks away and set a fire there, Browne said. He then hid on a roof before turning himself in to police, Browne said.

Isaac told police that Gillespie owed him $2,000 from some work he had done for her, Browne said.

The attack happened shortly after 4 p.m., lasted about a minute and was recorded by two video cameras, including one inside the small elevator.

"I should have been there," said Gillespie's nephew Rickey Causey, who lived with his aunt in apartment 5E. The elevator was just a few feet away from the apartment, where he was inside at the time. "I should have been outside," he said, crying.

"I didn't know what was going on at first," he told NBC New York. "I knew the elevator was on fire. But I didn't know nobody was on it."

Police released still images of the suspect Saturday night, showing him in a black jacket, wearing what appear to be surgical gloves and with a white dust mask perched atop his head like a pair of sunglasses. He is holding what appears to be a canister with a nozzle and spraying as he steps into the elevator.

Jaime Holguin, the manager of news development for The Associated Press and who lives on the same floor as Gillespie, said he and his girlfriend had taken the elevator on their way out of the building shortly before the attack. They didn't see anyone on the floor with them but did notice an odd smell, as if someone was painting, he said.

Holguin said police told them later that the assailant was already in the building and perhaps had hidden on another floor when they left their apartment.

He remembered Gillespie as nice but sometimes a little off. "At least with me, some days she'd be very, very pleasant, and then the next time, she would almost ignore me," he said.

Gillespie also went through a period this year where she would place duct tape over her apartment door whenever she left, Holguin said.

He said the man in the photos released by police looked like a man who had lived with Gillespie for about 6 months or so toward the end of 2010.

"It seemed like during the time he was here, he was kind of helping her out in her apartment," Holguin said.

He said he had exchanged hellos with the man, and they talked occasionally about Holguin's dog.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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