News

EXCLUSIVE: Man To Be Charged With Arson, Murder In Deadly 2006 Prospect Heights Blaze

Samuel Martinez, Already In Jail For Burglaries, To Face New Charges Tuesday
Samuel Martinez (credit: Handout)

Samuel Martinez (credit: Handout)

TRI-STATE NEWS HEADLINES

From our newsroom to your inbox weekday mornings at 9AM.
Sign Up

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Six years after a deadly fire in Brooklyn, investigators said they finally know who did it.

Investigators always knew arson was the cause of a Prospect Heights building blaze in 2006, but they never knew the who or why. The fire killed four people, including one man’s wife and two children.

Now they’re ready to hold someone responsible and that’s welcome news to survivor Kassoum Fofana, whose family was trapped on the third floor and couldn’t get out.

“I hear the people screaming outside, fire, fire, fire,” Fofana told CBS 2’s Sean Hennessey.

For Fofana, the screams and fight for survival that horrific morning six years ago are seared in his memory.

“I called my wife, I said ‘bring the children.’ I tried to break the window with my hand,” Fofana said.

Fofana remembers breaking that window and then waking up in a hospital where he was told his wife of 20 years, along with his toddler daughter and son, didn’t make it.

“I was in shock,” Fofana said.

The ferocity of the fire was shocking, too. So much so that residents tossed their children out the windows into waiting arms below.

For the past six years, FDNY fire marshals and the NYPD have conducted a painstaking investigation. CBS 2 has learned the Brooklyn district attorney is now ready to charge Samuel Martinez with arson and four counts of murder.

Hennessey: “If you could talk to Mr. Martinez, what would you say to him?”

Fofana: “I just going to ask ‘Why you do that to my family?'”

Police sources told CBS 2 that Martinez was mad at someone who sold him drugs and that person lived inside the building. Fofana said he still doesn’t understand how it could happen, but is relieved to know someone is finally being held accountable.

“Ten time a day, 20 time a day — all the time I think about my family. It’s still difficult,” Fofana said.

The 47-year-old native of Africa has been left with a permanent reminder of that day — an arm with nerve damage from breaking the window from which he escaped.

He said he won’t judge Martinez, but will let the U.S. court system do so instead.

“I wanted the law, whatever it can do, to punish this guy,” Fofana said.

Besides Fofana’s family, 24-year-old Sherri Williams was also killed after jumping from the roof in a desperate bid to live. She left behind an 8-year-old boy.

Martinez is already in jail for burglaries. He’ll be arrested Tuesday on the new charges.

Share your thoughts in the comments section below…