close
close

Latest Post

Kingsville considers purchasing 3 schools to be replaced by Erie Migration Academy Owens & Minor expands with $1.36 billion deal


Colodgia A. Burns, 29, was previously charged with setting a fire in June that burned four houses on East 10th Street. Prosecutors say she wanted her boyfriend to die in the fire because she believed he was cheating on her.

play

  • A fire in the 500 block of East 10th Street, just east of Parade Street, devastated four homes on June 13 and 14
  • Erie police said a woman living in one of the homes set the fire and was charged with arson.
  • Prosecutor added attempted murder at preliminary hearing for defendant, whose case continues while authorities deal with squatters and another fire on East 10th Street

A woman accused of setting fire to four houses on East 10th Street in June is now also accused of attempting to kill her boyfriend in the fire.

The defendant, Colodgia A. Burns, was angry with her boyfriend because she suspected him of infidelity after reading text messages on his cellphone, the Erie County District Attorney’s Office said Wednesday at a preliminary hearing for Burns.

Prosecutors said evidence showed Burns set the fire on June 13 by using a small butane-like torch to set fire to a sofa in a second-floor room of the house where she and her boyfriend were living as squatters without permission.

The house, which was being renovated and had no electricity or natural gas, was located at 422 E. 10th St., just east of Parade Street and the Denny’s ice cream and coin-operated laundromat complex.

At the preliminary hearing, prosecutors added a charge of attempted murder to the 51 charges that Erie police had brought against Burns after the fire.

Arson, corresponding charges already filed against the accused

The fire destroyed the house at 422 E. 10th St. and an occupied house immediately east of it, at 426 E. 10th St. Two occupied houses were damaged: one to the west, at 420 E. 10th St., and one to the east, at 434 E. 10th St.

No one was injured, but the fire left up to 22 people homeless, according to evidence presented at the hearing. The fire was reported at 11:54 p.m. on June 13. Firefighters remained on the scene until just before 5 a.m. on June 14.

All on-duty companies of the Erie Bureau of Fire and one off-duty platoon were deployed to fight the fire. The Millcreek Township and Belle Valley fire departments in Millcreek also assisted.

Burns, 29, was initially charged with four counts of first-degree arson of an inhabited structure, 22 counts of second-degree reckless endangerment of another person, one count of second-degree trespassing and other offenses.

She has been held in the Erie County Prison on $1 million bail since being arraigned by Erie 2nd District Judge Ed Wilson on June 19. Erie police said officers used surveillance footage from cameras in the area to identify Burns as someone who left the home during the fire.

Wilson presided over Burns’ preliminary hearing on Wednesday, where Burns pleaded not guilty. Wilson sent all charges against Burns to Common Pleas Court.

Why didn’t the friend testify in the case?

The case is not without potential complications, according to evidence presented Wednesday. The prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Tayler Moses, based the attempted murder charge on hearsay, which can be admitted as evidence at a preliminary hearing but not at trial.

The boyfriend did not testify at the hearing. Moses relied on the testimony of a police detective to describe what police said the boyfriend said about Burns wanting him to die in the fire. Even Wilson said he would have liked to hear from the boyfriend.

Moses said the friend did not testify because he invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to testify against himself. She said he was afraid of being charged with trespassing.

Burns’ public defender Tyler Lindquist argued that Wilson should drop all charges. Lindquist said the evidence, including testimony from another squatter who was in the house when the fire started, was not enough to identify Burns as the arsonist. Lindquist said the lack of testimony from the friend justified dismissing the attempted murder charge.

“She had nothing to do with the arson,” Lindquist told Wilson.

Moses responded that she had presented sufficient evidence to support the charges.

At Burns’ arraignment, according to evidence, Burns denied setting the fire but said, “It wasn’t meant to spread.” In her police interview, Burns said, according to further evidence, that her boyfriend’s alleged infidelity had hurt her “mentally, physically and emotionally.”

The evidence was “very clear that she intended to kill or hurt him because he had spoken to other women,” Moses Wilson said of Burns and her boyfriend.

Another fire breaks out on East 10th Street

The house where the fire started, at 422 E. 10th St., was known as a squatter’s residence. Firefighters were called to the house in the winter after a small fire broke out inside, said Erie Fire Chief Don Sauer.

Problems with squatters and fires in the neighborhood continue. An abandoned house at 514 E. 10th St. caught fire around 1:15 a.m. Tuesday, and firefighters found mattresses and other evidence that squatters had been living in the house, Sauer said in an interview.

The house has neither electricity nor natural gas connection, said Sauer.

“The neighbors said that squatters were often near the house,” Sauer said.

He said the cause of the fire was under investigation.

Contact Ed Palattella at [email protected] or 814-870-1813. Follow him on X @ETNpalatella.