Woman Dies After Allegedly Setting Home on Fire to Avoid Eviction

New Jersey authorities say the incident took place Wednesday in Roosevelt, where the unidentified woman threatened to blow up the house filled with cats.

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An eviction battle turned deadly this week, after a woman set fire to a New Jersey home.

The incident occurred Wednesday in the town of Roosevelt, where the female tenant was served with an eviction notice. Authorities told the CBS News the unidentified woman refused to leave the property and threatened to blow it up. Police then went door to door telling nearby residents to evacuate. 

“They knocked on our door this morning. Thank God it was a pretty loud knock,” neighbor Erin Luca said. “I grabbed [my son]. They told us to leave. She was threatening with a bomb or to bomb the house and ended up with a fire.”

At around 11 a.m. local time, responding officers noticed smoke and flames coming from the home, leading them to believe the sole occupant had intentionally started a blaze.  New Jersey State Police Lt. Lawrence Peele told CBS News they received reports that the woman “turned on the gas of the residence prior to igniting.”

The woman ultimately died in the house, which she shared with her cats. Neighbors told investigators the tenant was an “animal lover” who had up to 30 cats inside the home. Animal control quickly began searching for cats that might’ve escaped the blaze; however, they had failed to locate any as of Wednesday afternoon. 

Roosevelt Mayor Peggy Malkin told the Asbury Park Press that the woman had lived in the residence for years. She said the homeowner started eviction proceedings after deciding to sell the house.

Officials say the blaze completely destroyed the property and caused significant damage to an attached unit occupied by Emma Quackenbush.

“It looks like my house is gone,” said Quackenbush, who lived in the unit for 22 years. “It’s still standing but it’s not livable.”

Officials continue to investigate the incident.

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