Within minutes, the fire raced through the house on Hickory Street in Central Islip in August, quickly destroying the two-story home.
But the real horror lay inside: Investigators found three bodies together in a rear bedroom, each one shot, and one with an electrical cord wrapped around the neck.
For five months, there were no arrests in the slayings - until Monday, when authorities announced two Central Islip men were indicted on murder and arson charges.
Prosecutors Monday said Hasan Vaughan, 33, and Thomas Singletary, 33, both of Central Islip, set the house on fire after Vaughan killed Katrice Daniels, 31, her sister Mykier Daniels, 28, and Mykier's friend Louis Calixto Jr., 19.
Chalifoux would not discuss a possible motive for the killings.
"It appears to have been a horrific crime in that two of the victims appear to have been tortured prior to their deaths, and the arson was an attempt to cover up the murders," Chalifoux said.
Mykier Daniels was shot, stabbed and strangled, and found with an electrical cord from an iron around her neck, Chalifoux said.
Katrice Daniels was shot, and Calixto was shot and stabbed, he said. Mykier Daniels and Calixto showed signs that they were tortured, he said.
Mykier Daniels' children, then ages 2 and 6, escaped unharmed from the Aug. 11 blaze.
Singletary pleaded not guilty to second-degree arson through his Legal Aid attorney, Douglas O'Connor of Riverhead, and was ordered held on $1 million bail by State Supreme Court Justice C. Randall Hinrichs. He is due back in court on Feb. 19.
Chalifoux said in court Singletary had been convicted of seven prior felonies, including three violent felonies.
Vaughan was indicted on one count of first-degree murder for the death of Mykier Daniels, three counts of second-degree murder and one count of arson.
Vaughan was not arraigned Monday because he did not have an attorney. He was ordered to return to court Feb. 4 and was held without bail.
Vaughan had a relationship with at least some of the victims, Chalifoux said, but he declined to elaborate.
As he fled the fire, Vaughan was burned "over a substantial part of his body," Chalifoux said. He received treatment for several weeks from two New York City hospitals, he said.
Until Monday, Singletary and Vaughan had been in federal custody for violating the terms of their supervised release, Chalifoux said. Vaughan was awaiting sentencing for a carjacking and shooting, he said.