Elderly WW II veteran charged with arson after argument with caretaker

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by KHOU.com staff report

khou.com

Posted on January 4, 2013 at 4:46 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 4 at 7:41 PM

HOUSTON – An 83-year-old World War II veteran is behind bars after allegedly setting a house on fire and trying to trap a woman inside.

Firefighters responded to the fire in the 5600 block of Kashmere on New Year’s Day.

The victim said Willie Lewis Sr. was angry because she took away the keys to his motorized scooter when he tried to run over her.

The woman said she later smelled gasoline and saw Lewis set a piece of paper on fire and throw it in her closet.

She told arson investigators she ran to get the fire extinguisher, but when she returned the blaze was spreading. The caretaker said she went to the front door to leave, but Lewis tried to block her.

She managed to get past him and ran outside to call 911.

Lewis confessed that he set the fire, but told investigators he did it because the caretaker had been mistreating him and locking him in his room, according to court documents.

Rhonda White, who owns the home, said the caretaker wasn’t to blame.

"He could walk. He had access to the whole house. She basically had to barricade herself in at night because she didn’t know what he would be capable of while she was asleep," White said.

She said her uncle began acting erratically in November.

"He would urinate in the trash can, just act erratically, tear up the wall where he was and just act like a crazy," White said.

White took her uncle in last year after his wife fell and had to be moved to a nursing home.

She said he has a history of drug problems and a long criminal record.

White told investigators he had assaulted and threatened to kill the caretaker.

White said she obtained a mental health warrant on New Year’s Eve, but it hadn’t been served yet due to the holiday.

Lewis remained jailed without bond.

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