[Update Below] The family of the 73-year-old woman who died after she was set on fire in a Prospect Heights elevator earlier this month still haven't been able to bury her—and even the people who pledged to help them haven't done so. The family of Deloris Gillespie, who was allegedly killed by Jerome Isaac, spoke out yesterday about the hardships they've gone through since the horrific crime took place: "This family has been victimized twice. First by a madman and now by a gentleman who has shown depraved indifference to their plight," said Councilmember Letitia James, referring to a Manhattan hedge fund manager and his friend who had pledged to help pay for a memorial service today, but never gave the money.
Darren Weingrow, of Bull and Bear Partners, and his chiropractor friend, David Kesselman, had reached out to James' office and verbally promised to contribute $10,000 to the family. “If he wanted some publicity, he should have found it another way. He said he was someone who was willing to help and provide us what we need,” said Gillespie’s sister, Sheila Gillespie-Hillsman, who flew in from Gary, Indiana. The family has been staying at a hotel together, and are running out of money in the meantime.
The family estimates they will need approximately $20,000 to cover all of the expenses, including cleaning out Gillespie's overstuffed apartment, the service, the hotel rooms, and flights back home for travelling family. They have approximately $800 in their fund as of Thursday's press conference. To contribute money to the fund set up for Gillespie’s family, you can contact: Rehabilitation Fund for Disaster Victims, Carver Federal Savings Bank, 4 Hanson Place. Account # is 801281750 or call 718-230-2900.
Gillespie’s son Everett choked back tears as he described their anguish over her death, and in particular, the way she died: “For someone to sit there and set someone on fire…a 73-year old mother - set on fire that’s ridiculous. I mean what is this country coming to? You hear and read about stuff, but it’s a different story though when it happens to you,” he added tearfully.
The family also told Fox NY that Gillespie's body was so badly burned, authorities haven't been able to officially identify her; as a result, the family haven't been able to obtain a death certificate, and it'll take months for a DNA test to confirm it and complete that process. Sheila Gillespie also said she feared they'd have to cremate her mother; she said her younger brother had told her, "It's like you're burning her all over again." Friday's memorial service is scheduled for noon at the First A.M.E. Zion Church in the Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood.
Gillespie had just returned from grocery shopping when the elevator stopped on the fifth floor on December 15th—the attacker, who was dressed as an exterminator, doused her from head to toe with an accelerant as she cowered in the corner clutching her groceries. He set her on fire, 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.
It's believed that Isaac was upset Gillespie had not paid him for various odd jobs he performed for her. Gillespie’s nephew, Rickey Causey, had said Isaac worked for Gillespie, who was known as a bit of a hoarder, but was fired after being caught stealing from her. Isaac has been indicted on a charge of first-degree murder, and his lawyer has requested solitary confinement and medical attention for his client, but did not ask for bail.
Update: After the family came forward yesterday, Weingrow, the Manhattan hedge fund manager, contacted James to renew his promise to cover all the expenses for the memorial service. " The community appreciates his generous spirit. This issue is now resolved,” James said.