Two adolescents in Colorado have been arrested and charged with murder and arson after an apartment fire claimed the lives of a mother and her young daughter.
Just after 4 a.m. on Halloween morning, a raging fire broke out in the Tiffany Square Apartment complex in Lakewood, Colorado, just outside Denver. Residents from the 32 different apartment units scrambled for safety, trying to warn others of the danger, and in some cases even leaping off the second story to escape the flames.
Unfortunately, Kathleen “Katie” Payton, 31, and her 10-year-old daughter, Jazmine “Jazzy” Payton Aguayo, were not so lucky. Police say the fire started somewhere below their apartment, and by the time they had become aware of the danger, they managed only to huddle together in a bathtub and dial 911 before the floor collapsed underneath them.
Their remains were discovered later that day.
Family and friends of the mother and daughter are devastated by the loss.
“Katie was always helping her neighbor, giving her diapers when she needed them,” said Rochelle Vigil Valdez, Payton’s aunt. “Jazmine had just started 5th grade. She just the sweetest little girl. She was into unicorns. She had so many toys, it was ridiculous.”
“We’re just in shock,” Valdez added.
Megan Martinez, the principal of Deane Elementary School, which Jazzy attended, released a letter to honor the young girl.
“Jazzy was a kind soul, an amazing friend to her peers,” the letter read in part, “and her beautiful smile lit up the room.”
Almost from the first moments of the investigation into the fire, police began to suspect that it had been set intentionally. They then identified two unnamed juvenile suspects — one 14, one 12 — and arrested them on suspicion of first-degree murder and first-degree arson.
The two juveniles made a virtual appearance in a Jefferson County courthouse on Monday, when a judge determined that they posed a “substantial risk of harm to others.”
Because the boys are under 18, their names have not been released, but police suspect that they started the fire after someone kicked them out of the apartment complex. Police have likewise not released details regarding how the fire started.
In addition to the deaths of Payton and Jazzy, at least seven other people, including one firefighter, sustained non-life-threatening injuries in the fire. All received medical treatment and were released.
In all, 14 apartments were destroyed in the fire, and all residents who had been living in those units have been displaced.