Jerome Lewis was arraigned Friday on charges of first-degree felony murder, arson, assault, first-degree child cruelty and threatening to kidnap in connection with the February fire death of 4-year-old Samauri Jenkins.
Lewis pleaded innocent to all charges and remains held pending a status hearing January 14, 2014.
Police and members of the fire department found Jenkins on February 17 around 3:15 a.m. on the 2600 block of 33rd Street Southeast unconscious and not breathing from a house fire. She was transported to a local hospital and admitted in critical condition. Two days later, Jenkins was pronounced dead.
An autopsy found Jenkins died from injuries sustained in the fire; the death was ruled a homicide.
Less than a week later Lewis, 46, who escaped the fire, was arrested and charged with second-degree murder in Jenkins’ death.
At a preliminary hearing in March, Metropolitan Police Detective John Johnson testified that Lewis owned the home that burned down and lived in the basement. Lewis rented out the top two floors to tenants, Johnson said.
Charging documents state that the day of the fire, a police officer walked over to the house after viewing smoke coming from it on a security camera nearby. The officer questioned Lewis and other residents who had escaped the blaze, but they began arguing, documents state.
Lewis broke a window and tried to enter the house and yelled, “There’s a kid in there. I’ma kill that b— for this. I’m not crazy.” But the other tenants accused Lewis of starting the fire and told officers that he was “crazy” and “hears voices.” The cause of the fire, though, is still being investigated, court documents state.
According to charging documents, in an interview with police, Lewis said he often has problems sleeping, and hears voices.
The day of the fire, Lewis told police he was smoking a cigarette and decided to throw the butt on a mattress in the basement where he slept. As the mattress burned he said “the voices were just talking and talking.” Lewis said he grabbed the mattress outside but it went up in flames, court documents state.
The case is scheduled for a status hearing on January 24, 2014 with Judge John Ramsey Johnson.