A 16-year-old boy was charged yesterday with murder, attempted murder and aggravated arson stemming from a deadly house fire in Glassboro early Tuesday morning.
The boy, who has not been identified, initially was arrested on arson charges and sent to the Gloucester County Juvenile Detention facility in Clarksboro Tuesday night after questioning at the police station, said Bernie Weisenfeld, spokesman for the Gloucester County Prosecutor's Office.
Weisenfeld said the boy had sprinkled gasoline at multiple locations in the ranch home, in the 1200 block of Cedar Avenue, shortly before 1:15 a.m.
The charges were upgraded to first-degree murder after Stephen Edwards, 41, who was inside the house when the fire broke out, died of extensive burns at Crozer-Chester Medical Center yesterday morning.
"He was burned from the neck down but still was able to get out of house and cross the street to ask a neighbor to call 911," said Weisenfeld.
Edwards' live-in girlfriend, Michelle Henry, 39, is in critical condition at the same hospital with burns that are just as extensive, Weisenfeld said.
"She made it out of the house, too, but collapsed near the front door. She has an underlying illness that would make her more vulnerable to infection and is in very serious condition," he said.
Her injuries led to the attempted-murder charge against the boy, a Glassboro High School student.
Weisenfeld said that a 16-year-old boy who lived with the couple also was injured in the blaze. He was treated for burns on his hands at Kennedy Memorial Hospitals-University Medical Center/Washington Township.
The spokesman would not say whether that boy is the youth who was charged.
Jim Rogers, a neighbor, said that the boy who lived with the couple was Michelle Henry's son. "There was no problem at all with the family," he said. Police never visited the house, Rogers said.
Edwards was a tractor-trailer driver and had grown up in the house, according to Rogers.
The Prosecutor's Office is considering whether to to try the boy as an adult. He is also charged with felony murder, which is a death that occurs in the course of another crime.
A Superior Court judge yesterday held a detention hearing and remanded the boy back to the juvenile corrections facility.
The fire, which was brought under control around 1:40 a.m., destroyed the house, Weisenfeld said. Doug Peth, a firefighter, suffered minor burns.
The Gloucester County Fire Marshal, the Glassboro Police and the New Jersey State Police cooperated in the arson investigation.