PITTSBURGH (AP) – A house fire that killed a young child and two women in Pittsburgh was set by a man who smelled of gasoline and bragged “yep, I did it” as he watched the house burn, police said.
Pittsburgh police believe Martell Smith, 41, set the fire early Wednesday after getting into a bar fight with a relative of the victims who also lived at the home.
A witness told police he overheard Smith muttering “yep, yep, I did it,” while fire crews battled the blaze around 2 a.m. Wednesday. The police complaint alleged Smith was also heard muttering “they made me do it.”
None of those killed were involved in the bar fight earlier that night.
Smith is charged with three counts of homicide, along with arson and drug charges. Also taken into custody was a 26-year-old woman who was with him when he was arrested. It wasn’t known Thursday if either one has retained an attorney who could comment on the accusations.
Both Smith and the woman, Tiasia Malloy, smelled of gasoline when they were taken into custody, police said. According to police, Smith first told them he purchased a gas can at an area gas station – later insisting he did not purchase a gas can.
During his police interview, Smith gave a number of inconsistent accounts of his actions and whereabouts during the fire, many of which police said they were able to prove as false, according to the complaint.
Malloy is charged with aggravated assault on an officer. She screamed in the interview room, struck the walls of the room and threw chairs into the walls, police said.
The victims were identified as Chy’enne Manning, 4; her mother, Shamira Staten, 21; and Sandra Carter, 58. Each died fire-related injuries, according to the medical examiner’s office.
A fourth resident of the home, Cecil Douglas, 58, jumped to a neighboring home’s roof to escape the blaze and suffered a leg injury.
Staten’s brother, Chuck Staten, 26, said Wednesday that his sister was a devoted mother who loved her family.
Chy’enne was so outgoing that she would often say hi to strangers, he said.