A transient with a Northeast Philadelphia address used a cup of Wawa gasoline to set his girlfriend on fire and burn her to death inside a Trevose motel room early Sunday, suburban authorities say.
Kevin Lamar Small, 45, was also injured in the flames that engulfed much of the first floor of the Lincoln Motel, at 2277 Lincoln Highway, but he fled before emergency responders arrived. Police later found him on foot near Southampton and Byberry roads and arrested him.
On Sunday afternoon, Small told reporters on camera, “I lost it, that’s all,” as police escorted him to a court arraignment in handcuffs and with his hands wrapped in bandages.
When asked why he did it, Small replied, “Bad things, bad things. I hurt somebody I love.”
The blaze erupted shortly before 2:20 a.m. during an argument between Small and Melissa Bacon-Smith, 46, of Philadelphia. According to a criminal complaint prepared by Bensalem Township police, Smalls told detectives that he was angry with Bacon-Smith, so he walked to the Wawa across the street, filled a coffee cup with gasoline, returned to the motel and confronted the woman in Room 103. He placed the cup on a television, but Bacon-Smith laughed at him, Small claimed. He swung his arm, knocking the contents of the cup onto the woman’s face. She was smoking at the time and caught fire.
“Smalls (sic) stated Bacon-Smith grabbed his arm and called his name, ‘Kevin,’ ” police wrote in the court document. “(But) he pulled away from her and left her inside of the burning room and then left the room.”
Firefighters found the unresponsive Bacon-Smith lying face down in Room 104 after they had extinguished the flames. It is not known how she ended up in the neighboring room. The Bucks County coroner pronounced Bacon-Smith dead later that morning.
During the police investigation, detectives obtained surveillance video from the Wawa at 2250 Lincoln Highway, as well as the Lincoln Motel. The convenience store footage shows Small entering the store and making a purchase at about 1:30 a.m. He took a disposable coffee cup from the store, went to a gas pump outside and filled the cup with fuel. Small then returned inside the store holding the fuel-filled cup, where he took a second cup and obtained a pack of matches from the cash register area, the video shows. The criminal complaint did not specify if a Wawa employee handed matches to Small or if they were available on the counter top.
A short time later, surveillance cameras at the motel recorded Small as he returned to Room 103, which had been rented in his name.
When a witness alerted the motel’s desk clerk about the fire, she went to Room 103, saw flames on the TV, bed and curtain and saw a person on the bed screaming. The fire prevented her from entering the room, so she began to evacuate other patrons.
Firefighters arrived at 2:22 a.m. and rescued at least three people from the second floor of the motel, which has two stories. Several people were treated for smoke inhalation, but there were no further injuries reported.
While the motel was still an active fire scene, Small’s sister called police at 2:45 a.m. to report that her brother was on another telephone call with their mother. Kevin Small had told his mother that he had set his girlfriend on fire and that she “Looked like Freddy Krueger” as a result of the attack.
When police caught up with Small in the Northeast, they observed burns to his hands and an odor of gasoline on his body. The suspect was taken to Aria Health’s Torresdale hospital for treatment, then released into police custody later Sunday.
Bensalem police identified Small in a news release as a resident of the 2600 block of Southampton Road in Somerton, but the criminal complaint states he lives on the 100 block of Hazle St. in Wilkes-Barre. Court records show that Small has a long history of arrests for drug, theft and other offenses dating to 1999 in Philadelphia, Lackawanna and Luzerne counties. Most recently, he was sentenced in June 2014 to two-to-four years in prison in a Luzerne County drug case. Information was not available about how he ended up back in Philadelphia last weekend. ••