HOMEWOOD (KDKA) – A fire that left three people dead in Homewood South has been ruled as arson and two people have been arrested.
According to police, the fire broke out near the corner of Brushton Avenue and the 7600 block of Bennett Street around 2:20 a.m. Wednesday.
Later, the bodies of two women and a 4-year-old girl were found in bedrooms on the second and third floors.
The Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s Office identifies those victims as 58-year-old Sandra Carter Douglas, 21-year-old Shamira Staten and 4-year-old Chy’enne Manning.
A relative of the victims also lives in the home. He is identified as 23-year-old Ricco Carter. According to the criminal complaint, he had gotten into a fight with 41-year-old Martell Smith at a club in Penn Hills earlier in the evening.
Police say Smith goes by the nickname “Praise,” and his name was brought up countless times at the scene.
A witness told police they heard a male suspect say, “I heard Sandra was in there…she’s dead…Oh well, that’s life…they made me do it.”
The man was later identified as Smith.
Police found Smith and 26-year-old Tiasia Malloy in a car nearby. Officers noticed an overwhelming smell of gasoline coming from the car and both individuals. Both were taken into custody for questioning.
During questioning, Smith allegedly changed his story multiple times. He initially stated he had purchased a gas can at a nearby Sunoco. Then, he said he did not purchase the gas can at that location and “adamantly stated there was no video footage of him purchasing a gas can.”
KDKA’s Meghan Schiller Reports:
However, video footage does show Smith purchasing the gas can prior to the start of the fire.
“He was a regular customer of ours,” said Lisa Murray, a clerk at the Sunoco. “They purchased a gas can, and went outside, and got the gas, and apparently went and did what he did.”
Smith admitted to setting fire to the home, but said Malloy smelled like gasoline because he spilled some in the car.
Mark Carter, who lives in Virginia, is Carter Douglas’ brother. Her husband, 58-year-old Cecil Douglas, escaped the fire by jumping from the roof.
“She was a good person, didn’t really bother to many people. Just trying to live her life the best she could,” said Carter of his sister.
He said Staten was Ricco’s girlfriend, but he was not the father of the child.
Carter Douglas was Ricco’s mother. All of them lived together in the house. Ricco, who officials say was the target, was not at home.
Pittsburgh Police say the Homewood community rallied together in this case by speaking out and helping to put the puzzle pieces together.
“We received a tremendous amount of cooperation and information during this investigation,” said Pittsburgh Police Cmdr. Victor Joseph. “Without it, we would not of been able to solve the case so quickly.”
Smith is facing a list of three counts of criminal homicide in addition to arson and narcotics charges.
Malloy is charged with aggravated assault on an officer.
Both are being held in the Allegheny County Jail.