East St Louis woman faces murder charge after she’s accused of setting fire

A woman has been charged with first-degree murder in connection with the death of a man Wednesday who was trying to escape a fire at the Orr Weathers Housing complex.

Janice L. Richardson, 60, of 2310 Ridge Ave., is accused of starting the fire that led to the death of Arthur Jefferson, 60, who lived in apartment in Orr Weathers on the fourth floor of Building E2 where the fire occurred.

East St. Louis Police Captain Bobby Cole said Richardson was arrested in the building at her friend’s apartment by an East St. Louis Housing Authority officer. She is being held at the East St. Louis Police Department in lieu of $500,000 bail.

Jefferson was in his apartment when the fire started about 2:00 a.m. Wednesday morning. Cortez Slack, chief of Public Safety at the East St. Louis Housing Authority, said a couch and table that were in the hallway on the fourth floor were set on fire. He said lights there got so hot that they melted, as did some security cameras. However, it was surveillance video that led police to Richardson, both Cole and Slack said.

Slack said he did not know the woman who is charged in the case. He said he had not seen her in the building before.

Slack said Richardson came to visit a friend and was let into the building by that person. He said occupants of the building use key cards to enter.

A motive for Richardson’s actions has not been established, Cole said.

The 91 residents in the building had to be evacuated for their safety while firefighters worked to extinguish the blaze. Two unnamed women were burned on their hands while trying to get out of the building.

Carolyn P. Smith: 618-239-2503