After the police suggested that a 14-year-old boy was killed his three siblings and mother on Staten Island last week, evidence has emerged that cast suspicions on his mother. Police spokesman Paul Browne told the NY Times, "We may never know how this transpired."
The bodies of Leisa Jones and her four children were found after a three-alarm fire, and at first it seemed like a tragic fire claimed their lives. But then investigators found that the throats of two of Jones' daughters were slit, and, based on an apparently troubled childhood and witness accounts of him setting small fires, Jones' son C.J. Romoy was suspected of killing his sisters, setting a fire that killed his mother and 2-year-old brother, and then slitting his own throat (a razor was found under his body).
However, the handwriting on a charred note found stuck to a butane lighter matched Jones' and Romoy's father claimed Jones, who was struggling financially, had told a friend she wanted to kill her children.
The Daily News offers another theory: That Jones slit the throats of her daughters and C.J., and then tried to save herself and the 2-year-old, but was overcome by smoke (she and the child were found near the door). The NY Times adds:
A final conclusion on what killed Ms. Jones and C. J. has still not been issued by the medical examiner’s office. Ms. Jones had smoke in her lungs; C. J. did not. Interesting information, but perhaps not decisive.
And so Mr. Browne, the police spokesman, cautioned against developing leading theories, even now. The boy, he said, might not have had smoke in his lungs because he started the fire and killed himself before he could be overcome by smoke. He was, after all, in a room away from where the fire started and away from the rest of his family, at a time when they should all have been asleep.
Hopes that Jones' diary or computer could offer clues have been dashed—they were too damaged in the fire. The Times' Susan Dominus offers a mea culpa of sorts about the rush to judge C.J., "The investigation is still not over, and it was certainly not over on Saturday, when this column tried to grapple with the psychological state of a young man thought to have wiped out his family. I might have better used that space to wonder at least about fire officials’ rapid arrival at such a stunning conclusion."