Friday 3 March 2023

Woman blows up house, dozens of cats, and herself rather than face eviction: Report

 A New Jersey woman and her many cats have died after she allegedly blew up her rental house on purpose rather than leave it.

Just after 11 a.m. on Wednesday morning, first responders in Roosevelt, New Jersey, 20 miles east of Trenton, received a call about smoke billowing from a residence on Cedar Court. Firefighters arrived and quickly ordered neighbors to evacuate the area.

"They knocked on our door this morning," said local resident Erin Luca. "Thank God it was a pretty loud knock. I grabbed [my son]. They told us to leave. She was threatening with a bomb or to bomb the house and ended up with a fire."

Police say that a woman had been renting the home from her boyfriend and that the boyfriend had been trying to evict her for years so that he could put the home up for sale. An eviction moratorium during the COVID shutdown prevented the homeowner from pursuing the eviction more aggressively, but he reportedly began in earnest to evict his girlfriend after the moratorium was lifted in August 2021.

The woman, whose name and age have not been released, was served an eviction notice but still refused to leave. She then began threatening to bomb the home. Investigators believe that she set fire to the home on purpose.

"We're getting reports that the resident turned on the gas of the residence prior to igniting," said New Jersey State Police Lt. Lawrence Peele.

The woman's body was found inside the home shortly after the fire had been doused around 1:30 p.m. that afternoon, and at least two firefighters were injured trying to contain the flames, New Jersey 101.5 reported. The woman also worked as a pet sitter and had set up what Mayor Peggy Malkin described as a "cat house" at the residence. Investigators confirmed that some animals also died in the fire, and several outlets have reported that those animals include "dozens" of cats.

"She had many, many cats," Malkin stated.

In addition to the loss of human and animal life, the house itself has been completely destroyed and the structure of an adjacent home, where neighbor Emma Quackenbush has lived for 22 years, has likewise been compromised. "It looks like my house is gone," Quackenbush claimed. "It’s still standing, but it’s not livable."

The utility company PSE&G began excavating near the residence on Wednesday afternoon and continued excavating through the night but did not disclose the purpose of those thorough excavations.

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