Nursing student Joanna Mei, 22, has been charged with two counts of murder and one count of arson for allegedly starting a deadly fire in her apartment building in Brooklyn, according to NY Daily News. Mei has stated that she placed a piece of newspaper in the trash on her way out of the building, not realizing it was smoldering at the time.
Mei also told NY Daily News that she spotted what she thought was water near the trash on the floor, but it had a funny smell. A specially-trained canine unit found gas on Mei during a police interview. Accelerants were also indicated by the dogs in other areas of the building and on the floor where Xi Huang and Feng Xu, the two victims, resided.
Sources have stated that though Mei has denied the fire was started on purpose, she allegedly admitted to police she started it because she was irritated about the trash building up in hallways. Police also stated she had a burn on her hand during questioning.
She then told police that after she started the fire she tried to stop it by kicking over a trash can, but this merely spread the fire.
Mei lived on the same floor as the two victims with her sister, mother and brother – who all escaped safely. Someone called 911, but Mei told sources it wasn’t her.
NY Daily News also states that the two victims originally vacated the building successfully, only to go back in for their belongings, never to return. Another family of four who lived in the building was taken to the hospital for treatment for smoke inhalation. Three firefighters also suffered injuries, says The News.
One source told NY Daily News that she spotted Mei acting strangely during the fire. Heidi Pugni, 53, stated she saw the accused murderer running back and forth during the action, as if perhaps her family didn’t escape.
Mei also moved her car during the fire from a nearby lot to the street, sources say. After her arrest and arraignment, the judge denied bail for Mei.