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Suspect in New York elevator death is charged with murder, arson

By the CNN Wire Staff
December 19, 2011 -- Updated 2010 GMT (0410 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • 47-year-old Jerome Isaac is being held without bail
  • He is accused of setting a 73-year-old woman on fire
  • Isaac is scheduled to appear in court again on Friday
  • His lawyer requests he be placed in protective custody

New York (CNN) -- A New York man suspected in the death of an elderly woman who was set on fire in the elevator of her Brooklyn apartment building over the weekend was arraigned Monday on charges of murder and arson.

Jerome Isaac, 47, is being held without bail, according to the Brooklyn District Attorney's office, and is scheduled to appear in court again on Friday.

He wore a white jumpsuit and did not speak during the arraignment. The left side of his face appeared to be badly burned.

Isaac's attorney requested his client receive medical attention and be placed in protective custody because of the "publicity and the nature of the offense."

Isaac is accused of attacking 73-year-old Deloris Gillespie. He told police Gillespie owed him $2,000 for work he claims he did for her, said NYPD Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne. He turned himself in to police overnight Saturday or early Sunday morning.

Neighbors said the woman was returning home to her fifth-floor apartment in Prospect Heights after a grocery store trip Saturday.

A preliminary investigation showed Isaac standing outside the elevator on the fifth floor and attacked the woman as she was attempting to exit, authorities said. The incident was caught on surveillance cameras inside and outside the elevator, and police have the videotapes, Browne said.

Authorities believe Isaac initially sprayed the woman with a flammable liquid, presumably gasoline, and continued to spray her as he followed her back into the elevator, Browne said. The woman was first sprayed in the face, he said.

Then, using "one of those long lighters that you would use for a grill, he lit a Molotov cocktail and used the burning leg on top of that to ignite her body," Browne said.

The suspect stepped out of the elevator, threw the Molotov cocktail inside, then returned again to spray more liquid on the woman as she burned, he said.

"This is as bad as it gets," Browne told CNN's Don Lemon.

Authorities responding to a 911 call of a fire found the woman's body inside the elevator. She was pronounced dead at the scene, according to police.

Isaac lived about 10 minutes away from Gillespie's apartment building, Brown said. After the incident, he apparently returned home and ignited the door to his own apartment, he said.

He was concerned he had burned himself in the second incident, although no one else was injured, Browne said. He then hid out on a rooftop for a while and fell asleep, later going into a police station "reeking of gasoline" and telling officers he was responsible for a fire. During questioning, Browne said, he implicated himself in Gillespie's death.

CNN's Jason Kessler contributed to this report.

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