An ungrateful tenant who lived rent-free for months with his girlfriend in her aunt’s Queens home torched the property, killing the disabled homeowner after she told the couple they’d have to leave, the victim’s heartbroken family told the Daily News Wednesday.
Rampersaud Persaud, 49, was busted Wednesday and charged with murder and arson, accused of setting the Tuesday night fire in the Queens Village house that killed 63-year-old owner Bebe Jaomin, a stroke victim who used a wheelchair.
Persaud was accused of using an incendiary liquid to start the fast-moving blaze that killed Jaomin in her first-floor bedroom, authorities said.
According to a law enforcement source, a neighbor’s security video shows the suspect pacing around outside the building on 219th St. near Hillside Ave. before he rushes in and sets the blaze, with smoke appearing as he bolts from the home. It’s believed the suspect used a flammable liquid to ignite the deadly fire, a source said.
About four months ago, Persaud and his girlfriend, Shan Shaw, showed up at Jaomin’s door, saying they’d come to New York from Guyana for a vacation, and didn’t have a place to live, the victim’s daughter, Zorena Jagnandan, 42, told the News.
That vacation turned into an indefinite stay. “They didn’t pay bills. They didn’t pay rent. They didn’t give her anything,” she said. “She asked them to leave by August 31st.”
Worse still, Persaud repaid Jaomin’s generosity with abuse and threats, her daughter told The News as mourners packed Jaomin’s wake Wednesday night.
“He threatened to shoot her in the face three weeks ago,” Jagnandad said. "She called me the night before the fire, ‘The man here is abusing and harassing me. He’s cursing me and threatening my life.' I told her to call the police.”
It’s not clear if that call was ever made.
“My mother helped everybody. The list goes on and on," Jagnandad said. "But her kindness got her killed.”
Persaud awaits arraignment in Queens criminal court.
“I’m glad they caught him, but what he took from us cannot be replaced. I’ll never have my mother again. My children will never have a grandmother again," Jagnandad said.
Neighbors described a terrifying scene after the flames were first spotted around 11:10 p.m. Tuesday, with one local man’s rescue attempt foiled by the fire and heat.
“By the time he got here, it was already flaming,” said heartbroken neighbor Angelica Estrada. “He broke the window from the side and tried to put water in there. But the flames were just coming up too high.”
The investigation into the cause of the lethal blaze was continuing, according to the FDNY.
Three of Jaomin’s brothers — she was one of 17 siblings — as well as her son, who’d moved out a couple of months earlier, came to the fire-damaged home after learning of their sister’s death. “She was all by herself,” said a somber Estrada. “Since she had a stroke, she couldn’t function so much.”
Estrada’s partner said he was awakened by his son’s screams as the fire spread inside Jaomin’s home. The blaze was declared under control shortly before midnight, with one firefighter suffering a minor injury, authorities said.
“I’m like, ‘What the hell’s going on?’” recounted Isaac Rodriguez. “I come upstairs, I see the house on fire.”
“It’s shocking,” said the victim’s brother Rafeek Shah, 66, after arriving Wednesday morning at the fire-damaged home. “But what are you going to do? That’s just life.”
Shah said his sister, who once owned a pair of 99-cent stores in Queens and Hempstead, L.I., remained optimistic about getting her health back after the stroke.
“She was able to stand on her own,” said Shah. “I saw her a couple of months ago. I came by and spent half a day. She told me she was going to feel better and drive her car again.”
With Thomas Tracy