The man who allegedly burned a woman to death in her apartment elevator Saturday night told police in Brooklyn on Sunday that he had killed his 73-year-old neighbor in an arson attack because she owed him about $2,000 for odd jobs. Security cameras filmed the alleged assailant, 47-year-old Jerome Isaac, dousing Deloris Gillespie with a flammable liquid (he's said to have smelled of gasoline later) and then setting her ablaze, The New York Times reported. Police told the paper that Isaac turned himself in after fleeing the scene of the crime and catching some sleep: "After he woke and wandered the streets, he learned that he was wanted, so he went to a transit police station about two and a half miles from Ms. Gillespie’s apartment building." If he really did sleep, the nightmare sounds like it had already happened:
Whatever transpired between Ms. Gillespie and Mr. Isaac, the detached way in which he carried out the attack was extraordinary, according to police officials who watched the surveillance footage.
While Ms. Gillespie was out buying groceries, he rode the elevator to her floor and, outfitted like an amateur exterminator, waited for her to return, the police said. As soon as the elevator delivered her, Mr. Isaac was blocking her exit.
He sprayed her face with liquid from the hose that snaked around his torso. As she turned and shrank back into a corner of the narrow cab, he doused her with it. Then he went through with his plan: He lighted the fuse on the bottle bomb in his other hand and set Ms. Gillespie aflame. She dropped to the floor, engulfed and screaming.
But Mr. Isaac was not finished yet, the police said. To ensure that Ms. Gillespie did not survive, he tossed the long-necked bottle into the elevator with her. He sprayed more of the fuel on her. Only then did he run away.
The attack is, of course, completely unrelated to the elevator accident that killed a woman in Manhattan a few days earlier. But its horrific nature and the coincidental timing are sure to jangle a lot of nerves in a city where nearly everyone's day involves an elevator ride of some kind.