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Woman, Son Held in Arson Death

Crime: Police say the pair set the fire that killed one of their tenants, an elderly double amputee.

November 30, 2001|ANICA E. BUTLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A landlord and her son were arrested Thursday on suspicion of murder in connection with an arson fire that killed a 72-year-old double amputee who was one their tenants.

Clemetha Marie Dillard, 76, and her son Anthony, 51, were taken into custody early Thursday and will be charged today, authorities said. The victim has not been identified.

Anthony Dillard had taken care of the victim--whose legs had been amputated--for the past decade, authorities said. Until recently, he lived in the garage apartment behind the man's residence. Clemetha Dillard owned the home in the 2400 block of South Cochran Avenue, Los Angeles.

A motive for setting the fire early Wednesday might have been money and fraud, a detective said.

Early Wednesday morning, firefighters discovered the victim after they extinguished the blaze at his home, which is near West Washington Boulevard. It is unclear whether firefighters knew he was inside. His body was found in bed.

Neighbors said the man rarely left the house. They saw him only when he sat in his wheelchair at a window.

The cause of the victim's death was severe burns and smoke inhalation, said coroner's spokesman Scott Carrier. No relatives have been found, Carrier said, and it will take several days to confirm the man's identity through dental records.

The front bedroom of the home, where the victim slept, already was engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived, said Fire Capt. Steve Ruda.

A dog with the arson investigation team detected flammable liquids in several areas of the burned-out home, which prompted the homicide investigation.

Detectives questioned the Dillards on Wednesday. They were arrested after giving conflicting and suspicious stories, police said.

Early Thursday, officers searched the Dillard home and found evidence that they say links the pair to the fire.

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