Brooklyn murder victim's kindness led to her death, family says

Everett Gillespie, right, son of Deloris Gillespie, embraces his sister Sheila Gillespie Hillsman, during a news conference to discuss the murder of their mother, Thursday, Dec. 29, 2011, in New York.
AP Photo/Frank Franklin II
(CBS/AP) NEW YORK - The relatives of a Brooklyn woman torched in the elevator of her apartment building said Thursday that she was a kind woman who helped a homeless man and paid with her life.

Deloris Gillespie, 71, hired Jerome Isaac, 47, to do some chores at her apartment, her children said.

And on Dec. 17, "he ended up killing her," said Gillespie's son, Everett Hayes.

"For someone to set someone on fire - that's ridiculous!" he said. "I mean, what is this country coming to?"

Isaac is charged with first-degree murder and arson in Gillespie's death. Authorities say he trapped her in the elevator as it opened on the fifth floor of her apartment building. He then sprayed her methodically with gasoline and set her on fire as she screamed. Surveillance cameras caught the incident and showed Isaac wearing an exterminator's mask and gloves while he set her ablaze with a barbecue lighter.

Isaac surrendered to police the next day, still reeking of gasoline.

Police say Isaac told them she owed him money for the work he had done. However, Gillespie had told neighbors the handyman was stealing from her.

The family says they don't have enough money to pay for the service or other costs related to the death.

Daughter Sheila Gillespie Hillsman, 47, traveled from her home in Indiana after getting the news about her mother's murder and said the New York community responded with open arms to the family's grief.

"It's just been really hard but I've really received a lot of love from New York and I really appreciate it," she said. "I got a lot of hugs on the street."

More on Crimesider:

December 23, 2011 - Jerome Isaac, who allegedly set Brooklyn woman on fire in elevator, indicted for murder

December 19, 2011 - Brooklyn woman burned alive in apartment elevator by her former employee, police say

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