Teen arrested for deadly apt. fire

May 20, 2008 7:47:50 AM PDT
A four-alarm fire at an apartment complex in east Harris County could turn into a murder investigation. The body of a 66-year-old woman was found in the charred remains of her home. A young man is behind bars in connection with the late night fire.The entire roof of the building is gone, everything below it is damaged or destroyed. One woman, Lyna Skinner, did not make it out alive. She called 911, but the flames spread so quickly, help did not reach her in time. Investigators say the grandmother was legally blind.

The fire started in the apartment right next to Skinner's. Arson investigators arrested Joshua Mims, 19, this morning. They say he started the fire after breaking into an apartment where he thought a rival gang member lived.

Investigators say Mims admitted he first lit a bandanna on fire, and then used that to start a couch on fire.

Dustin Deutsch with the Harris County Fire Marshal's office explained, "There are some gang issues between rival gangs in the area. He's admitted to being a part of it, and this is retaliation for an issue that occurred earlier in the week."

"It's very frustrating," said fire victim Mary Christopher. "It's frustrating to hear that someone lost their grandmother because someone was retaliating against someone else."

Experts say lighting a couch on fire is like setting five gallons of gasoline on fire because of all the polyurethane material inside of the furniture. Mims is facing at least two counts of arson.

The Red Cross is helping the fire victims. Two other people were hurt -- a firefighter and another resident.


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