A 22-year-old Dyker Heights woman has been indicted for arson and murder in connection with a fatal fire last month that killed two tenants in the building where she lived.
According to the investigation, on November 9, Joanna Mei – who lived on the top floor of a three-story building at 11th Avenue and 67th Street – allegedly lit a candle and newspapers that were in a trash can in the first-floor staircase of her building, with police alleging that she flipped the can and left the building with the fire still burning.
The blaze spread quickly, killing Xi Huang, 58, and Feng Xu, 56, who lived in the building. It also injured several firefighters, a 31-year-old man, a 30-year-old woman and two children – a four-year-old girl and a three-month-old boy, all of whom were treated for smoke inhalation at Maimonides Medical Center.
Video surveillance captured Mei – a nursing student who, reports claim, started the fire because she was upset about trash in the hallway – exiting the building moments before calls were made to 911 to report the blaze. Once placed in custody, traces of an accelerant were also discovered on the defendant’s shoes.
The fire started just before 7 a.m.
“The alleged actions of this defendant displayed a complete and callous disregard for human life, and caused two tragic but avoidable deaths,” said Acting District Attorney Eric Gonzalez. “We will now seek justice for the victims and their loved ones for the heartbreaking loss that they suffered.”
Mei – who is currently being held without bail – will return to court on February 6, 2018, at which time she faces up to 25 years to life in prison if convicted. She is charged with two counts of second-degree murder and two counts of first-degree arson.