CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Charleston officials announced Monday afternoon the city is offering a $2,500 reward for information that could lead to the arrest of a suspect in an arson attack.
A home security camera captured the shocking incident Sunday morning of a woman set on fire in a Charleston neighborhood.
“We have shootings and things of that nature, but this level of depravity is just shocking to the conscious,” said Charleston Police Chief of Detectives Lt. Steve Cooper.
Cooper said video of what happened difficult to watch as the suspect walks up on the porch, douses the sleeping victim with gasoline, and lights her on fire.
“She was doused in accelerant and lit on fire by the suspect,” said Cooper. “She runs off the porch, tearing her clothes off and trying to put the fire out. She’s just completely engulfed in flames.”
Charleston Mayor Danny Jones said in a press conference Monday afternoon, he has never seen anything like this in his 33 years in the public eye.
“I can’t understand what she could have ever done to anybody that would cause another human being to set her on fire,” he said.
The woman, identified as Rachelle Jarrett, 44, of Charleston was asleep on the porch of the abandoned home on Randolph Street on Charleston’s west side. The suspect is unknown to police, but they have been able to get a good image of him from the security footage and hope it will lead to his identity and eventual arrest.
“The night before he checked into the Union Mission homeless shelter,” Cooper said. “We have video surveillance of him there from the night before. He left the homeless shelter and within just a short period of time, he was down on Randolph Street setting this woman on fire.”
The suspect used a false name when he checked into the shelter. The victim is in critical condition at the burn unit of Cabell-Huntington Hospital.
“Absolutely, the public’s at risk,” Jones said. “Otherwise, we wouldn’t be putting this money out.”
The suspect is also believed to have tried to set a second fire in the neighborhood in a similar manner, but was chased away by property owners.