Arson killing may have stemmed from club altercation

New Jersey native, former model, had no criminal record

December 21, 2010|By Justin Fenton, The Baltimore Sun

A 30-year-old man who died in what police believe was an arson might have been tracked to his home after an altercation at a club before being beaten, doused in gasoline and set on fire, according to a friend of the victim in an account confirmed by two sources with knowledge of the investigation.

Few details have been released in the investigation of the Saturday morning blaze, which broke out in the 1400 block of Homestead St. in Northeast Baltimore. The death of Ellison McCall Jr., a New Jersey native with no criminal record, is the first arson killing in the city since 2006.

A friend of McCall's, who asked to remain anonymous because McCall's family has not spoken to the news media, said those close to McCall have been told that he may have ejected some men from a city club. It is believed those men later kicked in the door to McCall's home, assaulted him and used gasoline to set the home ablaze. There was another person in the residence, who fled out of the rear, the friend said.

Officials would not discuss the incident, but two law enforcement sources familiar with the investigation confirmed that authorities were exploring circumstances consistent with the account given by the friend.

Sources said McCall worked part time as a bartender at the New Haven Lounge — the jazz club where City Councilman Kenneth N. Harris Sr. was killed in a robbery in 2008 — and had gotten into an altercation outside of the bar.

Police were not called for that incident, and there are no surveillance cameras outside of the club. Owner Keith Covington could not be reached for comment.

Firefighters responded to McCall's home about 6:15 a.m. for a report of a fire and found McCall lying in a front room unresponsive.

Anthony Guglielmi, a police spokesman, said information from witnesses led police to believe the fire was intentionally set but would not provide details. Fire Marshal Raymond O'Brocki said investigators did not believe the cause of the fire was a firebombing but could not provide additional details. Chief Kevin Cartwright, a Fire Department spokesman, said he had not been updated on the investigation.

Friends said McCall had done modeling in New York and had an 11-year-old daughter. He had moved to Baltimore in the past year and had family in the area.

"He was liked by everyone — a kind, good person — and he will be very missed by all the lives he has touched," one friend said in an e-mail. "He was very loved by his family."

On Monday, the small, one-story home, which is detached from the rowhomes on the block, was blocked off by police tape, and a pile of charred possessions sat in the front yard.

There was gang graffiti scrawled on a garage behind the home, though it was unclear how long it had been there.

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