PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Police have arrested a woman for allegedly starting an early morning house fire that claimed the lives of three men in Homewood on Wednesday.
Police say 42-year-old LaToya Lyerly admitted to starting the two-alarm fire that broke out around 6:20 a.m. in the 1500 block of North Lang Avenue.
Smoke first filled the house next door, which prompted the initial call to firefighters. When firefighters arrived, the first and second floors of the home were on fire.
According to police papers, Lyerly told detectives she started living in the first floor of the home three weeks ago in exchange for doing cooking and cleaning for the homeowner. Several other people also stayed in the home, which neighbors say the owner opened up to people who were homeless.
“He helps a lot of homeless people. I mean, he’s a good guy,” Cohen Dioer said of the owner.
KDKA’s Brenda Waters Reports:
Lyerly allegedly told police the home’s owner argued with her about how loud a radio was last night, and then she threatened to burn the house down.
But, according to the police papers, she denied at first having started the fire, saying she left for cigarettes only to find the home on fire later.
As interviewing continued, police say Lyerly claimed that the house was filled with “demons,” and that everyone inside the residence was involved in drugs and sex.
According to the police, she said she heard voices telling her to carry out her mission.
She set some paper coffee strainers on fire, then a chair and a couch before grabbing her coat and leaving, according to the paperwork.
Killed inside the home were 56-year-old Calvin Turner, 68-year-old Gerald Johnson and 73-year-old Darlyn Vance. The Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s Office determined all three died from smoke inhalation and burns to their bodies.
KDKA’s Heather Abraham Reports:
As firefighters first went in the home to search and knock down the fire, the bodies of two of the men were found on the second floor. It was during a third search of the home when they found the third victim.
“After going back into the residence for a second time, we did find a third victim on the third floor of the residents,” Pittsburgh Public Safety spokeswoman Emily Schaffer said.
“We take it personally. We don’t like losing people. We do everything we can not to. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we don’t get the best results,” Pittsburgh Fire Chief Darryl Jones said.
It was last fall when Lyerly made the news for allegedly abducting her 5-year-old daughter, who lives with a foster family. At the time, Lyerly lived in McKeesport and police papers stated she had mental health issues.
Lyerly is charged with three counts of homicide, as well as a list of other charges.