BOSTON, Feb. 10, 2016—A Chelsea woman faces life in prison after a jury found her guilty of intentionally setting the fire that killed 20-year-old Crystal Lynn Blanchard on Christmas Eve in 2010, Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley said.
A Suffolk Superior Court jury this afternoon convicted MELISSA PFEIFFER (D.O.B. 1/12/84) of second-degree murder under the theory of felony murder, as well as one count of arson and two counts of causing injury to a firefighter as a result of criminal conduct. At her sentencing on March 21, Pfeiffer faces the mandatory term for the offense of second-degree murder of life in prison with the possibility of parole after 15 years.
During the course of a nearly weeklong trial, Assistant District Attorney Julie Higgins of the DA’s Homicide Unit presented evidence and testimony to prove that on Dec. 24, 2010, Pfeiffer was involved in an argument with her boyfriend inside their Spruce Street apartment. After her boyfriend left their first-floor apartment, Pfeiffer intentionally set fire to the man’s clothing.
The evidence showed that Pfeiffer then left the scene without notifying others inside the five-unit building or contacting Chelsea Fire Department. Firefighters were only alerted to the blaze when a group of passersby who were lost in the area saw the flames shortly after 11:00 p.m. and called 911. Two Chelsea firefighters suffered smoke inhalation during their attempts to suppress the conflagration.
The fire spread quickly and, by the time a fire alarm sounded, it had trapped Blanchard and her boyfriend, then 33, in a second-floor apartment. The boyfriend suffered third-degree burns as well as fractured vertebrae and a fractured ankle when he was forced to jump out of a second-floor window to safety.
Blanchard never made it out, the evidence showed. Firefighters found her body at the top of a second-floor stairwell. She died of smoke inhalation and thermal injuries.
“There are few circumstances more terrifying than being trapped in a house fire,” Conley said. “Crystal died surrounded by smoke and fire, alone and afraid, because of this defendant’s actions. We hope her loved ones can take some satisfaction that the jury recognized those actions for what they were – murder.”
After the fire, Pfeiffer made statements admitting to setting the fire.
The fatal fire was investigated by members of the Suffolk County State Police Detective Unit with the assistance of Chelsea Police detectives, the Chelsea Fire Department, and troopers assigned to the State Fire Marshal’s Office, leading to Pfeiffer’s arrest on Jan. 6, 2011.
Assistant District Attorney Colby Tilley of the DA’s Appellate Unit second-seated Higgins at trial. Elise McConnell was the DA’s assigned victim-witness advocate. Pfeiffer was represented by James Doyle. Sentencing will take place before Judge Janet Sanders at 9:00 a.m. March 21.
All defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.