By LYDIA WARREN
A former handyman who doused a 73-year-old woman in gasoline and burned her to death in an elevator in her apartment building has pleaded guilty to her grisly murder. Jerome Isaac, 47, admitted his guilt as part of a plea deal that will put him behind bars for 50 years for the death of Delores Gillespie in Brooklyn, New York last December.
As he appeared in court in Brooklyn on Wednesday, his face was still scarred with burns that he sustained during the gruesome killing. The deal came after Isaac, who has been held in solitary confinement, was caught on surveillance camera attacking the woman after she returned home from buying groceries.
After lurking outside her apartment waiting for her to come home, he sprayed gasoline across her face and body before setting her on fire with a Molotov cocktail, according to police. The elderly woman cowered in the corner of the elevator and tried to shield herself, but neighbours said they heard her screams of agony as she burned to death while her alleged killer fled the scene.
The horrifying attack lasted one minute and was caught on two surveillance cameras at the apartment block. Ms Gillespie was pronounced dead at the scene. Isaac had lived with Ms Gillespie while he worked for her doing odd jobs, according to reports. He claimed that Gillespie was a former employer who had failed to pay him a $2,000 bill.
Yet family members said she had refused to pay him because she had found him stealing from her. He eventually handed himself in, still reeking of gasoline and with the left side of his face blistered and peeling from the deadly inferno he created in the elevator. In his court appearance on Wednesday, his face looked improved after he received medical attention from prison doctors for his wounds. But the judge had no sympathy.
'You acted in an especially cruel and wanton manner, intending to inflict and inflicting torture,' Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Vincent Del Giudice told Isaac.
'You will be incarcerated for the rest of your life, do you understand that?'
Isaac responded 'yes' but remained silent for the rest of the hearing. His plea includes a 25-years-to-life sentence for Gillespie's murder and 25 years for burning down the door of his brother's home near to her home. He was also ordered to pay $127,228 in restitution. He will be formally sentenced on November 30. Speaking to the New York Daily News, Gillespie's daughter Sheila Hillsman, 49, said: 'It's too bad that New York doesn't have the death penalty because I believe they should do to him exactly what he did to my mother.'