Mom Torched

NY Post - November 16, 2009


An embittered ex-boyfriend doused a pregnant woman with gasoline and set her on fire in the doorway of her Queens apartment yesterday as her horrified children looked on, officials and neighbors said.

Then, in the ultimate act of cowardice, after the twisted attacker slipped in the gasoline and accidentally set himself ablaze, too, he tried to pass himself off as a victim until he was identified by one of the injured woman's friends, witnesses said.

The suspect, Kehman Clarke, 25, knocked on Latisha Shaw's door in the Queensbridge Apartments in Long Island City shortly before 11 a.m. -- after setting a hallway and a staircase on fire to prevent her escape, officials said.

When she opened her door, he tossed the gas over her and lit her with a match, authorities said. The kids watched in shock as their mom went up in flames.

"The mother was burned up pretty badly," said firefighter Dave Loeser, who helped rescue Shaw.

"We heard the kids screaming in the bedrooms and got them out. He must have started the fire in the hallway to block them in and then threw gas against her door.

"The hallway was completely blacked out, and when we got there, there were kids screaming in the bedrooms. We think he was trying to trap her on the fifth floor."

Officials said the children, ages 1½ and 3, suffered smoke inhalation after being trapped in separate bedrooms.

"This is really mind-blowing, shocking," said one of Shaw's neighbors. "She's a quiet person. She takes care of her children. She does so much. She's always in the park with them."

Firefighters found Shaw, who is in her late 20s, on the roof of the six-story building. She was rushed to a hospital with burns to her legs and back.

Her injuries were not considered life-threatening. No information was available on the condition of her unborn baby.

Clarke was hit with a slew of charges last night, including attempted murder, arson, and endangering the welfare of a child.

Neighbors said he is the father of one of the children and had come by for a visit when he started arguing with Shaw.

They said he then left and came back with the gasoline.

"He knocked on her door, threw gasoline on her, lit a match, and she went up in flames," said a neighbor, James Rivers, 42.

"I heard the screams from my apartment. She didn't want anything to do with him, but he kept coming back like a stalker, and this is what happens."

Shaw managed to get out and run upstairs, with her ex allegedly in pursuit. A sixth-floor neighbor took her in and doused the flames before she ran to the roof again in terror.

Clarke was arrested when one of the victim's friends spotted him seeking medical care from paramedics outside the building and pointed him out to cops.