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Police: Neighbor trapped elderly couple inside during deadly fire

Bridgeport Police say a man trapped his elderly neighbors inside their apartment, as a fast-moving fire destroyed their building this summer. Now, he faces manslaughter charges in their deaths.

John Craven

Sep 8, 2023, 9:59 PM

Updated 252 days ago

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Bridgeport Police say a man trapped his elderly neighbors inside their apartment, as a fast-moving fire destroyed their building this summer. Now, he faces manslaughter charges in their deaths.
“ALL I SEEN WAS FIRE”
That fire spread within minutes in the early morning hours of July 14, at Success Village Apartments.
“I went to open the door, and all I seen was fire,” one neighbor told News 12 Connecticut.
Residents were forced to jump out of their windows. But Jose and Rose Pizarro – ages 88 and 91 – didn't make it. An autopsy revealed they died of smoke inhalation.
“Tried to save two people,” neighbor William Szabados said. “They didn't want to jump.”
“BLOCKING ANY MEANS OF ESCAPE”
On Friday, the Pizarros’ downstairs neighbor was arraigned on two counts of manslaughter. According to an arrest warrant, Joe Parker III accidentally set a couch on fire with a lit cigarette. A witness allegedly told investigators that Parker initially tried to put the fire out, but then “intentionally pushed [the] flaming couch out of his apartment into a common area, therefore blocking any means of escape for all second-floor tenants.”
Parker was already facing assault and gun possession charges, which barred him from owning a weapon. Inside his apartment, police found a loaded .25 caliber Colt handgun and a stash of drugs.
FAMILY REACTS
The Pizarros’ family declined to comment on the arrest on Friday. But one day after the fire, they fondly remembered the couple.
“Grandpa would give you the shirt off his back,” their granddaughter, Nicole Little, told News 12 Connecticut. "Grandma would cook for anybody and everybody who walked through the door."
Little said the building should have had more fire escapes.
"I think if there were fire escapes, or at least ladders, that they would still be here today,” she said. “I'm hoping something comes out of this about fire safety.”
WHAT’S NEXT?
A judge raised Parker's bond to $1 million on Friday. His next court appearance is Sept. 26.


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