Police: Arsonist strikes after breaking up with boyfriend

LOGAN - August 19, 2010

Neighbors and her ex-boyfriend identify the suspect arsonist as Monique Riley.

Riley is in fair condition at Temple University Hospital being treated for burns.

The incident happened on the 2100 block of Furley Street in Philadelphia's Logan section.

Orie Henson-Alston, the ex-boyfriend, told Action News, Riley showed up at his mother's house in the middle of the night to talk after their break-up Wednesday, but he turned her away. 30 minutes later, he said he woke up to the smell of gas and saw her flick a match on his front steps.

"Basically my ex-girlfriend set my mom's house on fire. It's sad because it really started over nothing. She not only put my life in danger, she put my kids' life in danger, and all these houses, and all these people," Henson-Alston said.

11 houses on the block were damaged or destroyed.

An Action News viewer captured the intense flames blasting out the second floor window, which can be viewed in the above video.

According to police, the woman called a taxi to the Logan home around 3:30 a.m. Thursday. She was holding a canister and had told the cab driver that she had run out of gas and needed a ride to the closest station.

When they returned, she told the cab driver to wait at the end of the block. A few minutes later, she appeared instructing the driver to take her to Germantown Avenue and Price Street.

On the way, however, the driver became suspicious when he saw fire trucks speeding by and the woman started yelling that she had burned her hand.

The cab driver dropped her off and immediately alerted police.

The Henson-Alstons tell Action News they've had past legal issues with Riley.

The blaze consumed that Orie's mother's home and then moved down the block. Neighbors knocked on doors to alert one another. Everyone made it out alive. Some, though, just barely escaped the flames.

"I ran downstairs and I looked out the front door and that's when I saw my neighbor's porch engulfed in flames," said Furley Street resident Monica Rodriguez. "So, at that time, I heard my neighbor saying, 'It's a fire! Get out the house!' So I ran back in to get my kids. And by the time I got back down the steps, I couldn't even come out the front door."

Four families can't return home tonight, according to the Red Cross. These families are shocked someone could do this intentionally.

"I can't explain why someone would do something like that," Rodriguez said.

"I'd like to get my hands on her," fire victim Carrie Cannon said.

Riley has been charged with arson and other related charges.

Copyright © 2021 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.