A man was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of terrorizing a Watts family for more than eight hours by tying them up, robbing them, raping a teen-age girl and setting their apartment on fire.
Chico Tyrone Wilson, 22, was booked for investigation of attempted murder after his arrest at his father's South-Central Los Angeles residence, police said.
A neighbor who was shot after confronting the suspect late Monday night outside the burning apartment was in critical condition at Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center.
One family member, the mother, was pistol-whipped and was in critical condition at the hospital.
"We all thought we were going to die," said the girl's aunt, Sally Rudolph, who also was imprisoned in the apartment. "He tied me up, pulled out the pistol and I heard a click. I figured that was it. I thought he was cocking the gun.
"I started praying . . . out loud. Later on, after he set the fire, I didn't think we'd be able to get out. It's a miracle none of us were killed."
The incident began Monday afternoon when the suspect, a neighbor, told the 17-year-old daughter, who was home alone, that he wanted to drop off an air filter for her father.
The girl said in an interview that Wilson pushed opened the door and forced his way inside. She said he pulled out a pistol, tied her up and raped her. The girl, a senior in high school, is 4 1/2 months pregnant.
The suspect began ransacking the apartment and when the girl's mother, a secretary, and father, a truck driver, returned home, he tied them up and robbed them of cash and jewelry, the girl said. She said that when her mother became hysterical, the suspect pistol-whipped her.
About 10 p.m., Rudolph and a 14-year-old niece returned to the house.
"When he pulled out the gun, we figured everyone else was dead," Rudolph said. "We saw their cars in the garage, but we didn't see any of them in the house. We thought we were next."
The suspect led them to an upstairs bedroom and rummaged through their purses for cash, Rudolph said. He then tied them up with cords cut from the television set and radio, and covered their eyes with duct tape, Rudolph said. Later, he allegedly brought the 17-year-old to the bedroom.
A few minutes later, he set the clothes in the bedroom closet on fire, said Rudolph, who by then had been able to lower the tape around her eyes enough to see. The suspect, police say, did not want to leave any witnesses.
Rudolph said that as the flames began spreading, she spotted scissors on an ironing board. She said she hobbled over and slowly freed her hands with the scissors. She then freed the two girls.
They jumped from an upstairs window and crawled along a ledge to safety. They then pounded on a neighbor's door, asking to come inside and call police, but the neighbors refused to let them in, Rudolph said.
"They just looked through the window at us and shook their head," she said. "They wouldn't open the door."
The father jumped from a second-story window of the burning apartment and the mother was rescued inside the apartment by firefighters. The neighbor, whose name was not released, was shot by the suspect after confronting him near the front door of the apartment, police said.
Rudolph and a few other family members spent Tuesday trying to salvage their belongings. The first floor of the four-bedroom townhouse was covered with water and the second floor was gutted by the fire. They said they plan to move in with relatives until their apartment is rebuilt.
The townhouse is at the Westminster Park Plaza, a 3-year-old complex of well-kept apartments on the edge of Watts. The apartment where Wilson lived is about 100 feet away in the same complex.
"We're still trying to figure out why he stayed at the place so long," said Detective Ike Withers. "And we're still trying to determine various other things, including his mental capacity."