Three people are facing charges in a deadly fire last month in Lowell, Massachusetts, Middlesex County District Attorney Marian Ryan announced Thursday.
The fire, which authorities say was intentionally set on Feb. 10 at a three-story Westford Street building, left 77-year-old Em Chak, who lived on the third floor, dead. Three other tenants, two firefighters and a police officer were also injured.
The fire spread to two other buildings, displacing more than 50 people, Ryan said.
According to Ryan, 20-year-old Julian Boykins of Lowell has been arrested on charges of murder, arson of a dwelling, three counts of armed assault with intent to murder, injury to a firefighter and intimidation of a witness in conspiracy.
Sixteen-year-old Alexander Gaye of Lowell, who is facing the same charges as Boykins besides conspiracy, is being sought by police, Ryan said.
Boykins was arrested on unrelated charges on Feb. 17. While he was in custody, authorities say he was in contact with his girlfriend, 19-year-old Tanya Karadanis, whom he allegedly instructed to destroy the SIM card from his phone. She has been arrested on charges of evidence tampering and conspiracy.
Karandis was arraigned Thursday and Boykins will be arraigned Friday, Ryan said. It was not immediately clear if either had an attorney.
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A cigarette lighter was applied to a trash bag and left in the back hallway of the apartment building, according to authorities. Boykins and Gaye are accused of driving to the scene with the intent of setting the fire.
"This underscores, once again, that using fire as a weapon is particularly dangerous, given the unpredictability of what will happen," Ryan said.
Crews battled the fire in freezing temperatures for hours in the early morning. Firefighters from surrounding communities were called to douse the flames at the apartment building around 3:15 a.m., authorities said at the time.
Red Cross Massachusetts was helping around 44 displaced residents, including 13 children, find a place to stay. The Red Cross says the fire affected three structures. The home it originated in, 98/100 Westford Street; the building next-door, which is 102-110 Westford; and 12 Royal Street, which is the building behind the structure on fire.
Two women, Daphne Lopez and Alyssa Andrews, were inside the building when the fire broke out.
They dialed 911 when they saw all the smoke and flames and then ran up and down the apartment building to wake up the other residents. Around 25 people who live in the building all came out the front door, according to the women.
The two women called another resident, Chhanna Chhay, to warn her. Chhay was able to get most of her family outside, but was worried about whether her grandfather made it out.
"My mom was still on there on the roof waving for help so I’m just hoping everybody was okay, but my grandfather, I don’t know,” Chhay said.