The suspect who turned himself in for the murder of a Brooklyn woman—who was burned alive in the elevator of her Prospect Heights apartment building yesterday—has been formally arrested. Police have charged Jerome Isaac, 47, of Brooklyn, with two counts of murder and one count of arson for the burning death of 73-year-old Deloris Gillespie. And according to authorities, Isaac was angry with Gillespie because she owed him $2,000 for work he had done.
According to Gillespie’s nephew, Rickey Causey, Isaac had worked for Gillespie but was fired after being caught stealing from her. “He was doing more stealing than cleaning," Causey told the Post. Causey said Isaac had previously left a note on Gillespie’s door with a list of chores he was demanding payment for.
Dorinda Thomas, who described herself as a relative, told the Daily News that Isaac was Gillespie's ex-boyfriend, and she was scared of him ever since she kicked him out of her apartment: “She was so scared of this guy. She was desperately scared of him.” Neighbor Ramon Vargas said that Isaac didn't seem crazy: “He spoke to me about the bible. He never spoke about violence or problems he was having. I’m shocked. This is not something I thought he’d do.”
The incident unfolded around 4:15 p.m. in Gillespie's apartment building at 203 Underhill Ave. in Prospect Heights on Saturday. She had just returned from grocery shopping when the elevator stopped on the fifth floor—just before that, Isaac had allegedly doused the elevator door with accelerant. The attacker, who was dressed as an exterminator, confronted her at the elevator, spraying her in the face, then dousing her from head to toe with what a city official said was an accelerant, as she cowered in the corner clutching her groceries.
The attacker then set a Molotov cocktail on fire, and used the wick to set her ablaze. “She goes up in flames and falls to the floor,” said Browne. The man then lobbed the Molotov cocktail inside the elevator. The whole scene was captured on two surveillance tape cameras in the elevator. Gillespie was pronounced dead at the scene, while five other tenants suffered minor injuries.
“[Isaac] indicated that he was responsible for setting a fire—he didn’t say anything about a homicide,” said NYPD spokesman Paul Browne. “Since then he has made statements implicating himself in the attack.” Isaac allegedly set another fire in a nearby apartment building ten minutes later, spraying a door with accelerant and leaving two Molotov cocktails behind. “We believe he knew the occupants,” Browne said of the second fire. “There were no injuries.” Isaac turned himself in earlier today at a police station close to the apartment building where the attack took place—he was "reeking of gasoline," according to cops.