It was to room 103 of the Lincoln Motel that Kevin Small brought his girlfriend on a Saturday night.

It was in room 103 that they fought, and room 103 that Kevin Small left to go to Wawa, police said, where he filled a coffee cup with gasoline and purchased matches.

It was back in that motel room that Small flung the gasoline on Melissa Bacon-Smith, who was smoking. There, he later told police, her face caught fire. It was room 103 that Small fled as Bacon-Smith called out his name, and in that room where responders found her dead and facedown on the floor less than an hour later.

The fire caused by the crime will force the motel along Route 1 in lower Bucks to close for as long as six months, said contractors working at the site Friday.

The blaze gutted the building - and was just the latest in years of occurrences that have made notorious a cluster of inns along Route 1 in Bensalem Township, the county's largest municipality.

The highway has long been known as a criminal hot spot, mainly for drug deals and prostitution, along with occasional violent crimes.

The motels' location - just outside the city of Philadelphia and near a turnpike exit convenient for travelers from New York City - makes them "prime pickings for criminal activity," authorities say.

People coming from Philadelphia or New Jersey have a "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" mentality about the just-over-the-border motels, said Bucks County District Attorney David Heckler.

In 2015, four hotels on Route 1 had 1,134 calls for police - an average of three a day - and 419 arrests, according to Bensalem police statistics.

That's nearly eight times as many as four unidentified motels on Street Road, which crosses Route 1 just a few minutes to the north where higher-rate establishments such as Crowne Plaza, Hampton Inn and Holiday Inn are situated.

"We work them hard," said Fred Harran, director of public safety for the Bensalem Police Department. "We do focus on the hotels when needed."

He did not want to give further details of police strategy, saying only that the department works with hotel owners and employees.

"They're good folks. They don't want crime at their hotels."

Yet the motels also provide shelter for families down on their luck or evicted renters who can get a roof over their heads thanks to the low nightly rates.

"In this world, there's a need for that as well, so it's a fine balance," Harran said.

Most crimes are not targeted at other guests, Harran said - not car break-ins or room thefts. Rather, they have been isolated incidents that often occur in private rooms.

Authorities don't want to wipe out the motels; they are not yet considered a nuisance, Heckler said.

Plus, he added, "many of the people we get who are committing crimes in those motels are going to commit crimes somewhere no matter what. I want to catch them."

Last year, a man was charged with killing his girlfriend at the Knights Inn, where he tied a telephone cord around her neck in an attempt to make it look like a suicide.

A few months later, two fugitives wanted in a double slaying in North Carolina holed up at the same motel. One of them shot himself after a police standoff at their room.

In 2013, a former Philadelphia police officer pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl he brought to Lincoln Motel.

In 2012, an 8-month-old was found dead in a room at the Neshaminy Inn, having ingested drugs, his parents' heroin paraphernalia lying near his body.

At the Lincoln Motel on Friday, a side door with a "danger" sign on it was propped open, leading to the deserted motel bar. Past it, a group of contractors was at work in the unlit room.

Cautionary signs were posted all over the building; the first-floor windows were boarded up. The sour smell of smoke hung around the property. The marquee outside still boasted of new rooms starting at $37 daily or $67 nightly.

Small, whose mother last week told the Inquirer that he suffered from mental illness but had been planning to propose to Bacon-Smith, was jailed in Bucks County on May 15 to await court proceedings.

The Lincoln Motel owner was unavailable Friday. Employees at other inns on Route 1 declined to talk Friday about crime in the area.

"There's no regulations on hotels that you must use a 400-count Egyptian thread on your linen," Harran said. "It is what it is."

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