Queens Woman, Sons Rescued After Jilted Boyfriend Set Her on Fire

NY Daily News - November 16, 2009

by Simone Weichselbaum and Jonathan Lemire

A jilted boyfriend doused his ex-lover with gasoline on Sunday and set her on fire, trapping the burning woman and her two sons in their Queens apartment, officials said.

Latisha Shaw screamed in anguish as the flames raced up her legs seconds after her crazed former beau tossed a match on her gasoline-soaked pants, witnesses said.

Khenan Clarke - a heartless ex-con who neighbors said looked like "Satan" - also set a blaze in the fourth-floor stairwell of the Queensbridge Houses building, preventing Shaw and her two boys from fleeing to safety, authorities said.

"When I came outside people were screaming, 'He lit her on fire, he did it, he did it,'" said neighbor Latisha Lewis.

"Where did this come from?" Monique Edwards, the victim's cousin, asked in disbelief.

Shaw, 22, fought through the smoke and reached the roof of the housing project where she collapsed and was rescued by firefighters, officials said.

Her two sons - Jayden, 5, and Ahshi, 3 - were pulled from the burning apartment by firefighters and were being treated for smoke inhalation, officials said. They should recover fully.

Shaw, who suffered burns on her stomach and legs, was listed in critical but stable condition at New York-Presbyterian Hospital Weill Cornell, officials said.

"I was in the ambulance with the kids," said neighbor Mia Wiles-Centeno, 38. "She was asking about her two babies."

The couple started feuding about 10:45 a.m. and things quickly escalated into a shouting match.

Investigators said Clarke, who is Jayden's father, stormed off and bought several cans of gasoline. He returned to the Long Island City apartment building to set the fire.

Clarke, 25, inadvertently splashed himself with the gasoline and his own clothes burst into flames when he tossed the match on Shaw, witnesses said.

Lewis watched in horror as a singed Clarke calmly walked out of the burning building to his car.

"[He] just started peeling the skin off his legs like nothing even happened," said Lewis. "It looked like ... Satan himself. He had this blank look on his face."

Clarke was charged with attempted murder, arson and reckless endangerment.

Empty gas cans were found in the stairwell, FDNY officials said.

Shaw's relatives said Clarke and Shaw had been estranged for several years, but they were still stunned by the sick attack.

"She is like my sister," Edwards said. "I don't want to believe it."