Police: Woman purposely torched her own apartment complex

9:26 PM, Feb 3, 2013   |    comments
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ST. PETERSBURG, Florida-- For some people, it was the sound of screams. For others, it was a loud knock on their window.

Either way, the residents of 2018 N Dr. Martin Luther King St. were alerted quickly Sunday morning that flames were ripping through their apartment complex.

Soon after, they found out that a fellow resident named Paula Ayers was charged with intentionally setting the complex on fire.

"She does pills and she's out of her mind," said Sharon Eneim, whose unit was heavily damaged by fire. "Yesterday, she went all crazy and went in my room, and when she went in my room, I had to kick her out, and I knew she was on something. I knew something like this was going to happen."

Ayers has had several aliases and arrests over the last few years, according to records. Those charges include battery on a law enforcement officer, resisting arrest, making false crime reports and false 911 calls, and disorderly conduct and disorderly intoxication.

No one was hurt in the fire, though the flames spread quickly to the attic, destroying many of the homes below.

"I don't know what I'm going to do. I haven't thought it out. It happened so fast," Eneim said.

Residents say the Red Cross is helping them out, putting them up in a hotel for three days as they find new places to call home.

"I don't wish [Ayers] no kind of evil," said Eneim. "I'm not that kind of person. I feel very sad for her."

Ayers has been charged with First Degree Arson and is being held on $100,000 bond ahead of her first appearance. Authorities had to seek medical treatment for her on Sunday before she could be officially booked into jail.

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