Suspect in elevator death indicted

Surveillance video shows the man, dressed as an exterminator, dousing the woman with a liquid and then setting her on fire.

Story highlights

  • 47-year-old Jerome Isaac is being held without bail
  • He is accused of setting a 73-year-old woman on fire
  • Isaac has been indicted on 10 counts, including murder
A New York man accused of setting an elderly woman on fire in an elevator last weekend was indicted by a grand jury Friday on murder and arson charges, prosecutors said.
Jerome Isaac, 47, was indicted on 10 counts, including first- and second-degree murder. He is being held without bail.
The indictment follows his arraignment on Monday, when he appeared in court with an extreme burn on the left side of his face. Isaac's attorney has requested his client be placed in protective custody because of the "publicity and the nature of the offense."
Isaac is accused of attacking and killing 73-year-old Deloris Gillespie. He told police Gillespie owed him $2,000 for work he claims he did for her, said NYPD Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne.
Neighbors said the woman was returning home to her fifth-floor apartment in Prospect Heights after a grocery store trip Saturday.
A preliminary investigation showed Isaac standing outside the elevator on the fifth floor and attacked the woman as she was attempting to exit, authorities said. The incident was caught on surveillance cameras inside and outside the elevator, and police have the videotapes, Browne said.
Authorities believe Isaac initially sprayed the woman with a flammable liquid, presumably gasoline, and continued to spray her as he followed her back into the elevator, Browne said. The woman was first sprayed in the face, he said.
Then, using "one of those long lighters that you would use for a grill, he lit a Molotov cocktail and used the burning leg on top of that to ignite her body," Browne said.
The suspect stepped out of the elevator, threw the Molotov cocktail inside, then returned again to spray more liquid on the woman as she burned, he said.
Authorities responding to a 911 call of a fire found the woman's body inside the elevator. She was pronounced dead at the scene, according to police.
Isaac lived about 10 minutes away from Gillespie's apartment building, Brown said. After the incident, he apparently returned home and ignited the door to his own apartment, he said.
He was concerned he had burned himself in the second incident, although no one else was injured, Browne said. He then hid out on a rooftop for a while and fell asleep, later going into a police station "reeking of gasoline" and telling officers he was responsible for a fire. During questioning, Browne said, he implicated himself in Gillespie's death.