She wanted a late-night hookup, but he fell asleep. So she burned his house down, police say


WOODBURY, N.J. – A New Jersey woman is accused of torching a man’s house after he invited her over for late-night sex, then fell asleep and did not hear her at his door.

Taija Russell, 29, was arrested Tuesday in connection with a fire that destroyed a home earlier this month, said Woodbury police.

Police accuse Russell of sending a series of angry texts to the slumbering resident, then buying lighter fluid, matches and a lighter at a nearby gas station around 4 a.m. on Aug. 4.

She’s accused of setting a fire outside the sole doorway to the man’s home, then fleeing as the flames spread, according to a probable cause statement for her arrest.

The victim, whose name has not been released, awoke around 4:30 a.m. to find flames blocking the exit from his smoke-filled residence. He escaped by physically removing a window frame and climbing through the opening, police said.

The man, described as “covered head to toe in soot and ash” and wearing only a T-shirt, then ran around two-tenths of a mile to Woodbury’s police station.

He “frantically” announced that his residence was burning, then ran back to his home, says the probable cause statement.

The victim was taken to a hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation and first- and second-degree burns, according to police.

Firefighters from Woodbury and surrounding towns responded to the blaze, saving the man’s dog.

“The residence and its contents were completely destroyed,” says the probable cause statement, which notes the fire was determined to be an arson.

Police then learned of texts sent by Russell to the victim, which included “I see you wanna die” and “You wasted my money to come out here.”

The victim’s phone also showed eight missed calls, according to the probable cause statement.

The man told police he’d invited Russell to his home “and stated that she was a ‘side chick’ whom he had been having a sexual relationship with,” it adds.

Video surveillance showed the woman outside the man’s house “just prior to the fire” and making a purchase at a Conoco station on Mantua Pike, police said.

Russell is being held on charges of attempted murder, aggravated arson, endangering and criminal mischief.

The incident marked the second time this year a woman was accused of setting fire to a man’s home in Woodbury.

A city woman, 33-year-old Tasia Young, was charged with aggravated arson and other crimes in April.

According to police, Young confessed she engaged in a threesome at her boyfriend’s duplex, then became angry when he sent her home and the other woman stayed.

Police said Young also bought lighter fluid and matches at the same gas station.



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