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Woman charged with murder in 2018 Centre Island house fire that left man dead, police say

(left) James M. Coppola, 75, was found lifeless

(left) James M. Coppola, 75, was found lifeless near the front door of a Centre Island house that caught fire last year (right) Jennifer Gross, 54, of Long Beach, has been charged with murder and arson in connection with Coppola's death Photo Credit: Kevin Madigan

A Long Beach woman was arrested Friday and charged with arson and murder for the death of man whose body was found inside a Centre Island home that caught fire last year, Nassau County police said Friday.

Jennifer Gross, 54, of Lindell Boulevard in Long Beach, faces one count each of second-degree murder and second-degree arson linked the Nov. 20, 2018, house fire in which James M. Coppola, 75, was found lifeless near the home’s front door, officials said.

Gross is scheduled to be arraigned Saturday at First District Court in Hempstead, police said. The relationship, if any, between Gross and Coppola, was not explained by police late Friday night.

Coppola was from Centre Island and Howard Beach in Queens, officials said. Officials said last year they believed the victim in the fire was one of many family members who used the house occasionally, often during the summer.

Police have scheduled a media briefing Saturday morning about Gross’ arrest.

Last year’s fire at the single-family residence on Centre Island Drive took firefighters hours to douse. Det. Lt. Stephen Fitzpatrick, commanding officer of the Nassau County Police Department’s homicide squad, said at a news conference the day after the blaze that some circumstances of the case raised red flags, including how the source of the fire was near the home’s center.

“The intensity of the fire is what’s concerning to us. We don’t know what was the source of that fire,” Fitzpatrick said last year. “It’s not in an area of the house, such as the kitchen, that would be able to fuel that fire to make it that intense.”

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