The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

May 10, 2013

Arson at Northgate

Tarboro woman charged in apartment fire


TARBORO — A Tarboro woman faces an arson charge after allegedly setting fire to an apartment at Northgate Apartments Thursday morning that destroyed four units and displaced 11 people. "Thanks to the heroics" of a resident who lived there, no one was injured.

Tarboro Fire Department was called to Building 9, Apartment 34 around 4 a.m. where Delicia Lachelle Wilikins, 24, admitted to setting the fire, said Tarboro Police Sgt. Bruce Edward. The fire destroyed Apartment 34 and caused minor damage to the unit located in front of it, said Tarboro Fire Chief Frankie Winslow. The other two apartments received minor smoke damage.

Around 1:30 a.m. a heated confrontation between Wilikins and her boyfriend, Elton Hyman, reportedly began with a verbal argument and later escalated to a physical altercation. At some point Wilkins reportedly kicked holes in the walls and knocked out a bedroom window, Edwards said. She also doused a room with lighter fluid and set fire to it.

"They managed to put that one out," Edward said.

The second fire was apparently too much for them to overcome. Ernest Faison and Kevon Hyman, who also lives at the apartment, attempted to put out the second fire but were overwhelmed. Once Faison realized the danger, he alerted his neighbors.

"I heard a knock on the door and I instantly realized it was a strange knock," said Elizabeth Battle Bell. "I don't usually open my door at 4 o'clock in the morning. When I got up, I saw smoke everywhere. Ernest saved our life. He's our hero."

Faison said he didn't feel like a hero. He said when he opened the bedroom door, he felt the heat from the fire in his face. He attempted to put out the fire by throwing a bucket of water on it. Once he realized the fire unbearable, he retreated to his neighbors' units and alerted them.

"That was the right thing to do," he said. "I thank the Lord that I was able to do that."

The American Red Cross provided ASsistance to 11 adults and three children who were displaced from four apartment units.

The Red Cross helped the families with temporary lodging and assistance for food, clothing, and other necessities. Around noon, the residents were outside waiting for directions from the Red Cross.

"I've been out here since 4 o'clock this morning," Battle said. "This is terrible."

Wilkins was charged with 1st degree arson and placed in Edgecombe County Detention Center under a $5,000.