Substantial Probability” Found in Fire Death of Four-Year-Old Samauri Jenkins

Judge John Ramsey Johnson found substantial probability Friday that Jerome Lewis intentionally set a fire that killed 4-year-old Samauri Jenkins last month.

Lewis will remain held while a grand jury investigates the case.

Lewis’ defense attorney, Anthony Matthews, argued at the hearing Friday, that the government could not conclusively show that Lewis set the fire on purpose.

Lewis told detectives in the case that he had been smoking a cigarette and he decided to throw the butt on a mattress in the basement where he slept. He then watched the mattress as it burned and “the voices were just talking and talking.”

Lewis said that he grabbed the mattress and tried to take it out the back door, but it went up in flames.

Metropolitan Police Detective Sgt. John Johnson testified Friday that Lewis owned the home that burned down in the 2600 block of 33rd Street Southeast. Lewis lived in the basement and rented out the top two floors to tenants, Johnson said.

The documents say that during the early morning hours on February 17 a police officer saw smoke on a security monitor from a booth located across the alley from the home, and walked over to the residence. While the officer was questioning Lewis and other residents who had escaped the blaze, Lewis and the tenants began arguing, the documents say.

Lewis broke a glass window of the home in an attempt to enter the residence and yelled, “There’s a kid in there. I’ma kill that b— for this. I’m not crazy.”

The tenants, though, accused Lewis of starting the fire and told officers that Lewis was “crazy” and “hears voices.”

Police asked Lewis to stay away from the window, but he took a fighting position against an officer and was arrested, documents state.

According to arrest documents, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for the District of Columbia determined that burns and smoke inhalation caused the death of Jenkins. The medical examiner concluded that the manner of death was homicide.

The exact cause of the fire, though, is still being investigated.

When questioned at the police department’s Homicide Branch, Lewis told officers he hadn’t slept in two days, often has problems sleeping and hears voices, according to charging documents.

Matthews argued that Lewis’ actions did not show he meant to harm others. He also said that Lewis’ mental state at the time of the fire should be examined.

Johnson agreed that Lewis’ mental state was an issue in the case, “but not at this stage.”

A felony status conference is scheduled for July 19.

Charging documents are below.

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