In what has to be one of the most terrifying crimes of 2011, a man dressed like an exterminator walked into an apartment building in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn yesterday afternoon and set a woman on fire. He appeared to have been waiting for her on the fifth floor when the doors to the elevator she was riding in opened. Then, according to the New York Times, he did the unthinkable:
The man, who appeared to be in his 40s, first sprays the woman in the face, then douses her methodically from head to toe with what a city official said was an accelerant as she turned and cowered, raising her hands, the grocery bags hanging from her wrists.
Tragically, as security camera footage showed, it didn't end there:
Having cornered the woman in the elevator, the man struggles to light a barbecue lighter. He then ignites a Molotov cocktail — a wine or Champagne bottle filled with accelerant with a rag stuffed in its neck. He retreats and comes back again, spraying more liquid on his victim. And suddenly the silent video goes white with a conflagration in the small space: the woman, on fire.
The woman died, and her attacker fled. A neighbor who saw the aftermath of the attack describes the scene,
I thought it was kids because the screaming was high-pitched. I looked out the door and saw smoke coming out of the elevator.
It's too awful to even imagine—it sounds like something out of a horror movie. But sadly it is all too real. The victim was 64-year-old Deloris Gillespie, a postal worker who lived in the building.
Last night, a man "reeking of gasoline" turned himself in to the police and said he'd committed the crime. He has not yet been charged, and police haven't said what his motive was—though they did say it was clear he knew Gillespie. Strangely, one of Gillespie's neighbors reported that she "went through a period this year where she would place duct tape over her apartment door whenever she left." So there may be a backstory here that we haven't yet heard.
Woman Torched By Molotov Cocktail in Elevator: Police [NBC New York]
Woman Is Burned Alive in an Elevator in Brooklyn [New York Times]
Image via Johanna Goodyear/Shutterstock.