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Gary relatives say woman burned in NYC elevator had called police about attacker

Deloris Gillespie 2010 while visiting friends family Gary. | Provided Photo~Sun-Times Media


Deloris Gillespie in 2010 while visiting friends and family in Gary. | Provided Photo~Sun-Times Media ptmet

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Updated: December 19, 2011 4:58PM

The man accused of dousing a 73-year-old woman with gasoline then setting her ablaze in a New York elevator was charged Monday with murder and arson.

Meanwhile, the woman’s relatives in Gary said the family is shocked and horrified that someone would do something so unimaginable to such a beloved woman.

Deloris Gillespie, 73, died after she was burned alive Saturday afternoon in an elevator inside the Brooklyn apartment building where she lived.

New York Police arrested 47-year-old Jerome Isaac, who was captured in surveillance camera photos dressed as an exterminator, wearing a dust mask, a pair of white gloves and holding a canister sprayer that contained flammable liquid.

Gillespie was in the elevator carrying groceries, and when the elevator opened to her floor, video shows Isaac stepping inside and spraying liquid all over her.

Police say Isaac then pulled out a lighter and used it to ignite a rag in a bottle, which he tossed onto Gillespie to set her ablaze. He told police he did so over a $2,000 debt.

Tony Gillespie of Gary, Deloris Gillespie’s cousin, said Isaac was a handyman who did jobs for her cousin, who had lived in New York since the 1960s.

“Deloris was the type of person that when something was not right or if a person did her wrong she would end all ties. Deloris made several calls to the police and tried to get a restraining order against that man,” Tony Gillespie said.

“Deloris was active in her community, in her church, and she was a loving mother and grandmother.”

She went on to say surviving relatives, who have been contacted by numerous media outlets, are asking for privacy at this time.

Isaac appeared in Brooklyn Criminal Court with the left side of his face badly burned and peeling, and his upper lip swollen. He said nothing during the brief court appearance.

He was held without bail, and his lawyer requested solitary confinement, as well as medical attention. His attorney did not speak outside court.

Isaac has no criminal record, but that does not mean he is not highly dangerous, Assistant District Attorney Kenneth Taub said.

“I know this is the defendant’s first offense, but the depravity of this particular single act is beyond my description,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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