NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Jerome Isaac, who allegedly doused Deloris Gillespie in a flammable liquid and set her on fire in an elevator, said nothing in court during his arraignment Monday. Meanwhile, family and friends continued to mourn the unthinkable loss of their loved one.
Isaac, 47, was ordered held without bail. Isaac’s attorney asked the court to keep him in solitary confinement, and also to receive medical attention for the extensive burns on the left side of his face.
1010 WINS’ Juliet Papa reports from Brooklyn Criminal Court
Isaac has no prior 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,” said Taub.
“It’s just the most heinous and senseless act that I have ever seen in all of my years as a criminal defense attorney,” City Council member Letitia James told CBS 2’s Sean Hennessey.
Isaac was allegedly angry with Gillespie, claiming the 73-year-old owed him $2,000. He faces murder and arson charges. His lawyer told Hennessey that the insanity defense isn’t being ruled out.
“He’s alleging that she owed $2,000. Some family members are alleging that the amount was much smaller,” James said.
Friends said the victim often helped men like her alleged killer with small jobs and even handouts. Gillespie’s friends said she hired Isaac to do odd jobs around her apartment on the second floor. And they say the two had fights over money before she fired him.
Police said Isaac waited for Gillespie outside an elevator she was riding in. When the elevator door opened, police said Isaac stepped into the car and began methodically spraying Gillespie with a flammable liquid, dousing her from head to toe as she struggled to avoid the spray.
Police said Isaac then tossed a Molotov cocktail into the elevator, setting it ablaze. Gillespie died of burns and smoke inhalation, according to the criminal complaint.
“She’s inside this box as the doors close. She’s locked in this box and I’m just imagining what she was feeling,” friend Tammy Meadows said, recounting the horrific tragedy to CBS 2’s Lou Young.
Police said Isaac later turned himself in and confessed to the crime. He allegedly reeked of gasoline when he surrendered.
Gillespie was being mourned at an impromptu memorial at her home at 203 Underhill Ave. Gillespie is survived by four adult children, three sons and a daughter, and also a grandchild. She regularly attended a Baptist church near her home.
“You think about burning in Hell. It makes no sense. This even goes beyond evil. It’s wicked what he did to a nice lady,” Gillespie’s friend, James Caldwell, said.
WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell Hears From Council Member Letitia James
Council Member James helped establish a fund to benefit Gillespie’s family.
“We come together to support a local family in need today. I believe that it is the responsibility of the community to hold up their neighbors in tragic times such as these; therefore we will do whatever we can to make sense of this gruesome crime, and more importantly to help put the lives of the family members of Deloris Gillespie back together,” James said.
Donations for Gillespie can be sent to Carver Federal Savings Bank, to the Victims Rehabilitation Fund set up by the community with the assistance of Council Member James. Carver Federal Savings Bank is located at 4 Hanson Place, Brooklyn, NY, 11217. For more information please contact (718) 260-9191.
Gillespie’s funeral is planned for after Christmas, according to James, speaking on behalf of the family, which she said has requested privacy.
Some neighbors said they had worried about her business arrangement with Isaac, nicknamed “Can Man” by some people in the neighborhood because he collected bottles, cans and other items for recycling.
Isaac’s next court date is Friday.
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