Police arrested a city woman Thursday on charges that she set the fire that caused the death of a 10-year-old girl last month, a crime they said was motivated by a perceived slight by the girl’s mother.
Sarah R. Moore, 25, of 1517 Fourth Ave., was charged with arson and second-degree murder in the early morning fire on June 13 at 1025-1027 Congress St.
Fire broke out at about 4:30 a.m. on the second floor of the apartment building. Fire Department Capt. Doug Faulisi, Lt. Robert Grzeskowiak and firefighter Darren VanNatten rescued Avion Bell, who was a fourth-grade student at Franklin D. Roosevelt Elementary School.
Avion was resuscitated at the scene and transported to Ellis Hospital. She was later airlifted to the Westchester County Medical Center. She never regained consciousness and died on June 17.
Police Capt. Peter Frisoni said the arrest came following a multi-agency investigation.
“Fortunately, we had people who approached us with information,” he said, declining to elaborate on what specific information people provided about Moore’s alleged involvement.
Frisoni said Moore was apparently upset about being slighted by Avion’s mother. Moore was with Tamira Bell, Avion’s mother, and others the previous evening. “She was apparently angry about some disagreement,” he said.
Authorities believe that the disagreement was strictly between those two adults and Avion was an innocent victim.
Frisoni said an accelerant was used to ignite the fire but would not comment on what type. The fire started from more than one location in the building but police would not comment on the specifics.
Police spokesman Sgt. Eric Clifford said previously the fire started in two locations — the rear hallway and the basement.
District Attorney Robert Carney said he does not believe that Moore intended to take Avion’s life, but the murder charge is brought because Moore was aware that Avion was in the residence when she allegedly committed the arson.
Carney added that his office is having preliminary discussions with the U.S. Attorney’s Office about federal prosecution for this crime. “If we keep the case, we’ll go to the grand jury sometime in the near future,” he said.
Fire Chief Robert Farstad credited the entire department for its work on the fire. “They gave their all that day,” he said. “They went through unbearable and dangerous conditions, putting themselves in harm’s [way].”
Three firefighters were injured fighting the fire. Faulisi tore a tendon in his arm that could keep him out of work for up to a year, Farstad said.
Moore was arraigned before City Court Judge Vincent Versaci Thursday morning on second-degree murder and first-degree arson charges.
Because they are felony level counts, a plea could not be entered. The case was continued until 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.
The girl’s mother, 34-year-old Tamira Bell — whose first name also has been spelled “Tamiria” — had previously been charged with endangering the welfare of a child after authorities say she arrived home two hours after the fire was reported.
That case is still pending and Bell is due back in court on July 16.
“The only people that really cared about the welfare of Avion Bell that night were the firefighters who tried to save her life,” Carney said.
The investigation included the Schenectady Police Department’s Youth Aid Bureau, the Schenectady Fire Department, the state Office of Fire Control and Prevention, the Schenectady County District Attorney’s Office and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, according to Frisoni.