LOS ANGELES (AP) — Los Angeles authorities announced murder charges in two separate arson cases Thursday after investigators determined both deadly fires were deliberately set earlier this month.
At a news conference, Los Angeles Police Department Capt. William Hayes said 24-year-old Khala Swasey was a prior resident of a home she allegedly set fire to on Aug. 22.
Firefighters responded to the blaze near the University of Southern California at 12:30 a.m. and found two people unconscious in the rear bedroom. The residents were later identified as 66-year-old George Hills and his 53-year-old sister, Yolanda McGruder. Both died at a hospital.
The second fire consumed a Skid Row tent on Monday, killing 62-year-old Dwayne Fields, who was inside.
Hayes said Swasey allegedly had a dispute with someone in the home near USC and was frustrated over having been locked out.
She was arrested Tuesday in Pasadena by Los Angeles police detectives and jailed without bail.
It couldn’t immediately be determined if she has an attorney, but the District Attorney’s office said Thursday she is expected to be represented by a public defender. If convicted she could face the death penalty.
Police said Jonathan Early, 38, was charged Wednesday with murder in the second fire. He faces arraignment on Sept. 28. Prosecutors said he was assigned a public defender who could not be immediately located for comment.
Hayes said officers in the Skid Row area noticed Monday’s fire shortly before midnight and immediately put it out. Fields died later at a hospital. Police said Early fled after the tent was ignited but was apprehended soon after.
In both cases, Hayes said, investigators looked at forensic evidence, witness testimony and surveillance and determined “it was clear” both fires were intentionally set.