Mon, Dec 19, 2011 - Page 7 News List

Woman set on fire in the elevator of her NYC building


A woman burned to death in the elevator of her Brooklyn apartment building on Saturday after a man ambushed her, sprayed her with liquid and set her afire with a Molotov cocktail, police said.

The unidentified man was waiting for the woman, who was in her 60s, when the elevator doors opened to her floor of the Prospect Heights building. The man sprayed her with an accelerant and set her on fire, New York City police spokesman Paul Browne said.

“It was apparent he knew she was on the elevator,” he said.

No arrests had been made as of Saturday night and police were still searching for the suspect.

The brutal attack happened shortly after 4pm, lasted about a minute and was recorded by two video cameras, including one inside the small elevator.

Browne said the video showed the elevator doors opening to the fifth floor, where the woman’s apartment was located, and the assailant stepping in and spraying the woman.

The woman, who had grocery bags in her arms, turned about 180o and then crouched in an attempt to protect herself, he said. However, the man sprayed her directly in the face and continued to spray her “sort of methodically” over her head and parts of her body as the bags draped off her arms. She turned around and retreated to the back of the elevator.

At some point, Browne said, the suspect then pulled out a barbecue-style lighter, used it to ignite a rag in a bottle and then waited for a few seconds before using the flames to set her afire, causing smoke to fill the elevator.

The man backed out as the woman fell to the floor of the elevator, Browne said, and seemed to pause before tossing the bottle inside the elevator onto the woman.

Browne would not comment on the motive in the killing, but said the suspect knew his victim. Police did not identify the woman pending notification of relatives.

Investigators believe the suspect fled down the stairs of the building, he said.

Police released still images of the man on Saturday night, showing him in a black jacket, wearing what appear to be surgical gloves and with a white dust mask perched atop his head like a pair of sunglasses. He is holding what appears to be a canister with a nozzle and spraying as he steps into the elevator.

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