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2 Charged With Arson, Murder in Separate Fires That Left 3 Dead: LAPD

LOS ANGELES -- A man and a woman have been charged in connection with two separate arson incidents that left three people dead, Los Angeles Police Department officials announced Thursday.

One of the suspects, identified as Khala Swasey, 24, was charged with two counts of murder in connection with a deadly fire in Exposition Park last week, according to the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office.

She also faces special circumstance allegations of multiple murders and murder in the commission of an arson.

That fire occurred about 12:30 a.m. in a boarding home along the 1000 block of West Leighton Avenue on Aug. 22.

Los Angeles firefighters responded to the blaze right away and were able to get 16 residents out of the home.

George Hills, 66, and his sister, Yolanda McGruder, 53, were among those pulled out of the fire, but they eventually died from their injuries, officials said.

The two-bedroom home where the the fire started had added rooms that were used by boarders. The victims were caretakers at the facility and Swasey apparently at one point lived there, officials said.

She was arrested in Pasadena on Aug. 27 in connection with an unrelated incident.

LAPD Capt. William Hays said the suspect had some sort of dispute with someone in the home and was frustrated over having been locked out. She managed to start the blaze by lighting clothes on fire and left the area.

Hayes said there was no indication that Swasey had targeted the victims who died in the fire, but that she lit the blaze to "prove a point."

Swasey faces the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole if she is convicted as charged.

The second incident occurred near the intersection of Sixth and Flower streets in downtown Los Angeles about 11:30 p.m. on Aug. 26.

Firefighters responded to person inside a tent on fire. The victim, Dwayne Fields, 62, was rescued but later died at the hospital.

Witnesses directed authorities to a man who they said had set the blaze and 38-year-old Jonathan Early was detained. Based on surveillance video and forensic evidence, Early was eventually arrested.

He  was charged Wednesday with one count of murder and special circumstances arson.

He also faces the death penalty or life without the possibility of parole.

The suspect also apparently was in a dispute with the victim before the blaze was intentionally set, Hayes said.

Both defendants are being held without bail.

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