Fire-death suspect cited cigarette as source of flames

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Local,DC,Crime,Naomi Jagoda

The man accused of murdering a 4-year-old girl who died after a Southeast D.C. house fire told police that his cigarette led to flames in the home, according to a court document.

But DC Fire and EMS Department spokesman Lon Walls said Sunday that authorities are still looking into how the blaze began and that it will take a while for the cause to be determined.

The suspect, 46-year-old Jerome Calvary Lewis, has been charged with second-degree murder in the death of Samauri Jenkins. Lewis lived in the basement of the home where the fire occurred on Feb. 17 and was one of seven people inside the house when the blaze started.

Firefighters found Samauri unconscious in a second-floor bedroom of the home. She was taken to a hospital, where she died two days later. Her death was ruled a homicide, according to an affidavit supporting the arrest warrant for Lewis.

Before Samauri was removed from the home, another person who had been inside the home when the fire started said Lewis started the fire. In response, Lewis said, "I'm going to kill you," the affidavit stated.

Later, Lewis was apprehended by a police officer. He then yelled, "I am going to kill you, b---h," and tried to kick another resident. Police also found a book of used matches in Lewis' pocket.

Lewis was taken to a police station, where he told officers that he had thrown a cigarette on a mattress in the home and then saw the cigarette burning. He said he tried to take the burning mattress outside, but it went up in flames, according to the court document.

The defendant also said that he had been awake for two or three days at the time of the fire and that he had a cycle of "being up without any sleep for about two days at a time hearing voices then crashing," the affidavit stated.

Occupants of the home told police that Lewis did not warn them about the fire or help them escape from the building.

njagoda@washingtonexaminer.com

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