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Brooklyn resident found guilty of manslaughter for setting fatal fire that killed two disabled men in Jamaica

fire Jamaica
A Brooklyn man was convicted of manslaughter for setting a fatal fire in Jamaica that killed two disabled men in 2018. (Photo via Getty Images)

A Brooklyn man was convicted of manslaughter Thursday for setting a fire in Jamaica, two days before Christmas, that killed two people when he was a teenager.

Kahj Woods, 20, of Fountain Avenue was found guilty at trial of starting the fire in a three-story building where he was visiting with a relative in 2018. The men — one an octogenarian and the other disabled — were unable to escape from the second floor and died, according to Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz.

Woods was convicted on two counts of manslaughter following a two-week-long trial before Queens Supreme Court Justice Michael Aloise.

According to trial testimony, On the afternoon of Dec. 23, 2018, Woods was captured on video surveillance footage, leaving the three-story building on 150th Street where he was briefly living with his great-grandmother. Woods then returned, peered in the front door and departed again. Minutes later, at approximately 3 p.m., a parishioner attending religious services on the ground floor of the building exited the location after smelling smoke coming from the residence.

Katz said following the fire investigators discovered the two men gravy injured on the second-floor of the building. EMS responded to the scene and rushed the victims to Jamaica Hospital, where David Hawkins, 64, was pronounced dead. John Wigfall, 86, ultimately died of his injuries later that evening.

Hawkins was both blind and had dementia. He was burned on 70% of his body and died from thermal injuries and smoke inhalation. Wigfall succumbed to smoke inhalation, according to the DA’s office. Both vulnerable victims lived with the defendant’s great-grandmother, who was their caregiver.

“The defendant was convicted of causing the death of two men, whose bodies were discovered following the fire that also displaced six other residents from their homes,” Katz said, “A jury weighed all the evidence and rendered a verdict of guilty. The defendant’s fate will be decided by the Court.”

Justice Aloise scheduled Woods’ sentencing for June 2, at which time he faces up to 15 years in prison.

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