Police suspect the deaths of a woman and her four children, one just 2 years old, in a torched Staten Island apartment early Thursday may have been a bizarre murder-suicide.
Investigators are looking into the possibility one of the dead children, a 14-year-old boy known only as C.J., slit the throats of at least two of his siblings, set the fire and then killed himself, said a law enforcement official.
The blaze started in the Staten Island apartment Leisa Jones shared with her two sons and two daughters - ages 2 to 14 - and quickly moved through the two-story building's attic space and roof, fire officials said. Tenants in three other apartments got out safely.
New York Police Department spokesman Paul Browne said two young girls whose badly burned bodies were found in a front room of the apartment had their throats slit. The girls' bodies were found along with that of their mother. Jones' body was too badly burned to immediately determine if her throat was cut.
The youngest child - a 2-year-old boy whose throat wasn't slashed - was found alive and died later at a hospital.
The body of the brother, 14-year-old C.J. Jones, was found slumped over a bed in a back bedroom, his throat also slit, Browne said. A straight razor was discovered beneath his body. Police were investigating the possibility that the teen may have killed his mother and siblings - ages 2 to 10 - and killed himself, Browne said.
C.J. had been ejected earlier Wednesday from a nearby public pool on Staten Island after he set a fire there, police said. Neighbors had also described him lighting paper on fire in front of his apartment building in recent days.
Jones, 32, attended a beauty school during the day, neighbors said. Her children were identified as Jermaine, 2, Melanie, 7, Brittney, 10 and C.J., 14.
"She came out here to try to make a better life for her kids," said her friend Shaquawna Meaders, 25, who lived down the street and was at Jones' apartment Wednesday night.
Jones came from Trinidad; the children's father lived on the island of Jamaica.