Firebug Nabbed In Neilson Street Fire
By Howard Schwach
Fire marshals have nabbed the local man who they say set a six-alarm blaze that devastated a Neilson Street apartment building and left scores of residents scrambling for somewhere to stay, fire department officials say.
Fire Department sources say that Marcello McDonald, 40, who had been squatting in Apartment 5H at 10-56 Neilson Street with his girlfriend, Sandra Brown, for the past several months, set the fire to "evict" Brown from the apartment.
"He was angry with her for doing her thing - drugs and prostitution - in the apartment," a Fire Department source told The Wave. "Whenever he got her angry, she would find another man to have sex with and let him know about it."
McDonald allegedly got angry on February 3 and set fire to her clothing, using rags and gasoline to accelerate the burning.
"He didn't mean to burn everybody out or destroy the building," sources say. "He only wanted to get her to leave the apartment."
More than 120 people were left homeless by the raging fire that took more than four hours to put out. About 30 people suffered minor injuries, including 20 firefighters who responded to the all-hands fire.
A portion of the building collapsed from the fire and city sources say that the remainder of the building will most likely be demolished.
While fire marshals had McDonald's description from his girlfriend and from eyewitnesses the night of the fire, they did not find him until Friday, March 3, when Fire Marshal Joseph Ricca caught him on Nasby Place in Far Rockaway and placed him under arrest.
Fire Department sources say that he gave up without a fight.
Court records reveal that McDonald, who is known on the street as "Sha," was indicted on March 3 on charges of burglary in the first degree and arson in the second degree.
According to the court records, McDonald admitted to fire marshals that he started the fire in the closet and that he knew that women and children were present in the building when he set the fire.
McDonald had reportedly been living on the street with friends since the fire.
"We knew he was on the street. It was just a matter of finding him," one Fire Department source said.
A spokesperson for Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said that McDonald faces up to 25 years in prison if he is convicted of all charges.