Woman Charged With Arson Murder in Conn.

A 23-year-old woman was charged Wednesday with killing 16 fellow patients at a nursing home earlier this year by setting fire to her bedding with a cigarette lighter.


HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- A 23-year-old woman was charged Wednesday with killing 16 fellow patients at a nursing home earlier this year by setting fire to her bedding with a cigarette lighter.

Lesley Andino, a former patient at Greenwood Health Center, was charged with 16 counts of arson murder and a single count of arson. She faces life in prison if convicted.

Prosecutor James Thomas said he doesn't know when Andino, who is undergoing psychiatric care in a hospital, will be arrested.

``That will be up to the police,'' Thomas said.

Sydney T. Schulman, attorney for Andino's family, said he cannot understand why prosecutors would charge a woman who has multiple sclerosis, depression and dementia. He added that Andino is distraught over what happened.

``She understands there was a fire, and I believe she knows people were hurt. But I don't know if she knows the extent of it,'' he said.

Andino told police she started the Feb. 26 blaze while lying in bed and flicking her lighter. But tests by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives show the sheets could not have ignited immediately and that the lighter's flame was held to them.

Attorney Christopher Rossetti, Andino's court-appointed guardian, questioned her competence.

``She can barely walk without assistance,'' he said. ``She unfortunately has had a very sad life. I think the judicial system will be sensitive to that. I hope it will.''

The pre-dawn fire forced some patients into the bitter cold. Ten people died that day and six more died later.

Patients at the facility included the elderly, mentally handicapped and younger psychiatric patients. Fire officials said there was no sprinkler system in the building, but it was up to code and fire extinguishers were present.

State Sen. Edith Prague has said she will push for legislation to prevent patients with serious psychiatric problems from being placed into nursing and convalescent homes.

Other bills have been proposed since the blaze, including one requiring all nursing homes to be fitted for sprinkler systems. Under current fire codes, Greenwood is not required to have a sprinkler system; 20 of Connecticut's 241 licensed nursing homes are not fitted with sprinkler systems, according to the state officials.

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