Police: City man attempted arson at Tompkins Street apartment building

A city man was arraigned this afternoon on charges of attempted arson after police arrested him Saturday for spraying lighter fluid in his girlfriend’s occupied apartment complex and lighting a match.

Melvin A. Truell, 50, also told his girlfriend on the phone he hoped she and her grown son died in the fire he was preparing to light at her 99 Tompkins St. apartment, according to sworn statements to police.

After lighting a match in the lighter-fluid soaked home, Truell said, “This is not worth the waste of a match,” and blew it out, according to a witness statement.

Twenty people live in the 12-unit apartment building, said Fire Chief Charles Glover on Monday.

“And if he had dropped the match it could have been potentially catastrophic,” Glover said.

The incident began with an argument over where to go to lunch, according to a sworn statement by his girlfriend to city police.

The pair had planned to meet at D. P. Dough in the Clocktower Building, according to the 40-year-old woman’s statement. But when Truell did not arrive, she called Truell and said she was going home to the 99 Tompkins St. apartment she shares with her son, according to her statement.

Truell went to her apartment, where he was staying, and yelled at his girlfriend throughout the afternoon, according to her and her 19-year-old’s police statements.

After purchasing beer and drinking, Truell’s rants worsened and the woman shut herself in the apartment’s bathroom, according to the statements. Truell punched the bathroom door several times and banged the door into the bathroom wall, breaking its tiles, according to her police statement. “Melvin eventually told her to get out of the house and she did so they could both cool off,” the 19-year-old told police.

The son went to a convenience store and returned to find Truell squirting lighter fluid on the floors of the apartment’s kitchen, living room and hallway, as well as his mother’s bedroom, according to his statement.

“Melvin then went to the kitchen and picked up a long thick match with a green top that was sitting by itself on the kitchen,” the son told police. “Melvin light (sic) the match with a lighter and said ‘This is not worth the waste of a match’ and then blew it out.”

The son called his mother and explained what Truell was doing, asking her to hurry home, according to the woman’s statement. Then Truell called.

“Melvin told me ‘I just sprayed lighter fluid all over the house, and I don’t give a f--- if you and your son are here. I hope you both are and die,’” the woman told police. “Then Melvin hung up on me.”

When she arrived at the apartment, Truell hit her in the face, according to her police statement.

The woman called police after being punched and city police and firefighters responded, according to the departments. State fire investigators also assisted, Glover said.

In his sworn police statement, Truell admitted to arguing with his girlfriend and punching the bathroom door. But he told police he never hit his girlfriend and didn’t know anything about lighter fluid in the apartment.

At his arraignment this afternoon, Truell blew a kiss and waved to his girlfriend in the gallery.

Truell was arrested on charges of felony second-degree attempted arson, as well as second-degree reckless endangerment, third-degree criminal tampering, fourth-degree criminal mischief and second-degree aggravated harassment. City police plan to upgrade his reckless endangerment charge to felony first-degree reckless endangerment, said Lt. Michael Strangeway.

Glover noted the danger city residents and firefighters were exposed to with the lighter-fluid doused apartment and the lit match, calling the potential fire immediately dangerous to life and health.