Jerome Isaac was not happy at all. In fact, he was bitterly angry. He felt slighted, cheated even. He demanded to be repaid for what he claimed he was owed, police say.
Deloris Gillespie walked into her Brooklyn building and pressed the Up button on the elevator. She just returned from the store carrying groceries back to her apartment. A man dressed as in exterminator suit was waiting on fifth floor for the door to open. As the elevator opened up, Gillespie was caught in a deadly surprise. Isaac was the man dressed as the exterminator. He began sort of methodically spraying, the 73-year-woman from head to toe with a flammable liquid, reported the Associated Press. She crouched down in the elevator trying to protect and shield herself from being sprayed. She was certainly surprised by what happened.
Isaac had her corned in the elevator, right where he wanted her. He lit a barbecue lighter and ignited a Molotov cocktail, a glass bottle filled with lighter fluid or some similar liquid capped off with a rag. Isaac threw the cocktail on Gillespie. As she lay in the elevator screaming for her life, he sprayed lighter fluid on her as he watched her burn alive. Isaac fled down the hallway and out of the building. Police also said before he set Gillespie ablaze, he set small fires in his own apartment.
Isaac turned himself in without incident to a transit police station in Crown Heights. He reportedly smelled of gasoline, according to the Associated Press. He told police that Gillespie owed him $2,000 for work he had done for her. Isaac was Gillespie's handyman and had done odd jobs for her.
She had a bunch of locks on the door, said Gillespie's relative Dorinda Thomas according to The Daily News. She was desperately scared of him.
Is $2,000 the price to pay for a life? Is that all it takes to put someone over the edge? How could an individual feel so angry and cheated that they burn a woman alive?
Well, you have to look at is going on beyond the money, says Dr. Gerald Bryant. Bryant is a clinical and forensic psychologist who has been practicing for over 20 years. He is a member of the Forensic Psychology Group and has extensive training in substance abuse treatment and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Bryant says it is possible that Isaac had been consumed by his rage. When a person becomes so engrossed like that they completely negate the other human being, he says. They want to destroy the human being. Rage, Bryant says, is not just acting out in anger.
Rage means you have an intense anger, it is directed, and there is a drive to act out, he says. Bryant also suggested that Isaac took time to carefully plan this attack and chose to burn Gillespie for a specific reason.
You will see arson used as a way of revenge, says Bryant. It is probably the worst thing you can do. Isaac did not only killed Gillespie, says Bryant, he destroyed her identity. It is a 1,000-times worse than shooting or stabbing someone.
Dr. Liza Gold , a clinical professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C., says this is a particularly heinous crime. While she did not personally interview the suspect, she says that this is just outright brutality.
I would just wonder if he was sociopathic, said Gold. Gold said this is a brutal case that doesn't fall into any recognized pattern of forensic diagnosis or psychology. She said that Isaac acted so maliciously that he acted outside realms of mental decency.
Both Bryant and Gold suggested that Isaac must have had some previous departures from the norms of society in the past. Both doctors agree that he may have a previous criminal record.
You would probably see some warning signs throughout his life, says Bryant. In similar cases, Bryant says the suspect had a quick temper, intense anger and isolated other individuals. He also suggested that this was a well-planned, calculated attacked because Isaac felt cheated.
The fact that Isaac turned himself in to authorites instead of waiting to be hunted was somewhat peculiar. Most criminals would have run away, attempting to evade police. However, Isaac willfully surrendered. Bryant suggested this was not because he felt remorse, but because he was completely full of himself and might believe what he did was right.
He might have thought he could have got away with it, says Bryant. He might have had a sense of grandiosity to the point that he thought what he did was justified.