A New York man charged with killing a woman by tossing a petrol bomb on her in a lift has told police he was angry because she owed him $US2000 ($2009).
Jerome Isaac, 47, was arrested on Sunday on murder and arson charges over the death of 73-year-old Deloris Gillespie, US police said.
Isaac reeked of petrol when he walked into a police station and implicated himself in Gillespie’s death, New York Police Department spokesman Paul Browne said.
Authorities said Isaac, wearing an exterminator suit, ambushed Gillespie in the lift of her Brooklyn apartment building on Saturday afternoon.
The suspect had been waiting for her when the lift doors opened to the fifth floor of her building, police said.
"It was apparent he knew she was on the elevator," Browne said.
After setting Gillespie on fire, Isaac went to his apartment building just blocks away and started 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 $US2000 from some work he had done for her, Browne said.
The attack lasted about a minute and was recorded by two video cameras, including one inside the small elevator.
The video showed the lift doors opening to the floor where Gillespie’s apartment was and the assailant stepping in and spraying her, Browne said.
Gillespie, who had grocery bags in her arms, turned about 180 degrees and then crouched in an attempt to protect herself, he said.
But the man sprayed her directly in the face and continued to spray her "sort of methodically" over her head and parts of her body as the bags draped off her arms, Browne said.
She turned and retreated to the back of the lift.
Then, Browne said, Isaac pulled out a barbecue-style lighter, used it to ignite a rag in a bottle and then waited for a few seconds before using the flames to set her on fire, causing smoke to fill the lift.
The man backed out as she fell to the floor of the lift police said, and seemed to pause before tossing the bottle inside the elevator and onto her.
'She was desperately scared of him'
A relative of Ms Gillespie, Dorinda Thomas, 56, told the New York Daily News that Isaac was Ms Gillespie's ex-boyfriend.
She said he moved out earlier this year and Ms Gillespie was fearful of him.
"She had a bunch of locks on the door. She was so scared of this guy. She was desperately scared of him," Ms Thomas said.
"She knew that something was going to happen to her in that building. She knew this and everyone around here knew this."
One of Ms Gillespie's neighbours, Ramon Vargas, 65, told The New York Times he frequently saw the man helping the woman with her shopping bags.
"He was a very intelligent guy," Mr Vargas said, adding the man was well-dressed and talked about religion, war and politics with him.
Another neighbour, John, who did not give his last name, told the Times he heard screaming and saw smoke coming from the lift.
"I thought it was kids because the screaming was high-pitched. I looked out the door and saw smoke coming out of the lift."
Jaime Holguin, the manager of news development for The Associated Press and who lives on the same floor as Ms Gillespie, said he and his girlfriend had taken the lift on their way out of the building shortly before the attack.
They did not see anyone on the floor with them but did notice an odd smell, as if someone was painting, he said.
Mr Holguin said police told them later the assailant was already in the building and perhaps had hidden on another floor when they left their apartment.
He remembered Ms 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.
Ms Gillespie also went through a period this year where she would place duct tape over her apartment door whenever she left.
Earlier, police released still images of a man in a black jacket, wearing what appear to be surgical gloves and with a white dust mask perched on top of 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 lift.
Neighbours reported a fire in the building, unaware that the woman was burning to death in the lift.
Residents were evacuated and kept away from the six-storey building for hours on Saturday night as police investigated.
On Sunday, Mr Holguin said the fifth floor was a mess, with a melted lift door and a layer of water on the floor.
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/world/burned-a...#ixzz1gx98y9x3