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Woman accused of setting fire to apartment with bedridden mom inside

A woman is accused of stabbing her boyfriend and setting her apartment on fire while her bedridden mother was inside, according to a recently released arrest report.

Officers responded to the apartment around 12:17 p.m. on May 30 after the mother called 911 to report that her unit was on fire, she could not walk and she believed that she was going to die, according to the report. The location of the apartment was not disclosed in the report, but Las Vegas Fire Department crews responded at 12:17 p.m. on May 30 to an apartment fire at 2740 E. Bonanza Road, where they rescued a bedridden woman, the Las Vegas Review-Journal has reported.

According to the arrest report, officers found the woman’s daughter, Erica Stanisavljevic, standing outside with “deep lacerations to her arms.”

Before she was taken to University Medical Center, Stanisavljevic told officers that her mother, identified in the report by only her first name, Ljuba, was still inside and could not escape because she was bedridden.

Las Vegas Fire Department crews worked to put out the fire and rescue Ljuba, who the report said weighed about 500 pounds. A crew of about a dozen firefighters were able to remove her from the apartment. At the time, Las Vegas fire spokesman Tim Szymanski reported that the daughter had tried to help her mother escape through a window, but ended up cutting herself and inhaling smoke.

The mother was taken to the same hospital as her daughter, where Ljuba received treatment for excessive smoke inhalation and third-degree burns to her face and right arm, the report said. She remained in the hospital’s burn unit as of June 2.

Arson investigation

When arson investigators with Las Vegas fire spoke with Stanisavljevic, she gave conflicting accounts of what happened, according to the report. First, she said that the fire started while she was asleep. Later, she said that she had been refinishing a table in her bedroom when “one of her cats knocked over a candle which caught the varnish on fire,” the report states.

When speaking to police, Stanisavljevic said the cuts on her arm came from a knife that she had been using to try and cut down a set of curtains, according to the report. Police found the knife on the ground outside the apartment. Stanisavljevic told police she got it from “Russell,” but said she couldn’t remember who “Russell” was, the report states.

Arson investigators with Las Vegas fire ultimately could not determine the cause of the fire because they did not have enough evidence to prove that it was arson, according to the report. So police did not take a crime report and crime scene analysts did not respond to the scene to take photos or impound the bloody knife as evidence, the report states.

But on June 1, “an unidentified source” told police that Stanisavljevic caused the fire after she stabbed her boyfriend of about a year, later identified as “Russell,” in the right shoulder, then threw a flaming towel at him and threw varnish on him to light him on fire, the report states.

As “Russell” tried to flee the apartment, the source told police that Stanisavljevic “began slashing at him wildly trying to keep him in the house,” according to the report.

Officers returned to the apartment and noted “a lot of blood” leading out of Stanisavljevic’s apartment and down the sidewalk. While there, they interviewed multiple witnesses whose stories mirrored the unidentified source’s.

Witness accounts

According to the report, a couple who live in a nearby apartment told police that “Russell” ran into their unlocked apartment May 30, covered head-to-toe in “black oil” or “varnish.” The couple said they were friends with Stanisavljevic and had checked in on Ljuba in the past.

“Russell” told them that Stanisavljevic “stabbed me and lit the house on fire, you guys have to get out,” according to the report. They quickly evacuated their apartment with their dog and alerted other neighbors, they said.

The mother’s caretaker of eight years also told police that, about a week before the fire, the mother had said that her daughter had been “hearing voices” and that Ljuba and the caretaker believed she may have schizophrenia, the report states.

Stanisavljevic was taken to Desert Parkway Behavioral Center for a mental health evaluation after she was released from University Medical Center. Officers then took her to Metro headquarters for an interview June 3, during which she denied using any illegal narcotics and answered most questions with “I don’t know” or “I don’t remember,” the report states. She denied being in a relationship with “Russell.”

Ljuba told police on June 3 that she remembered “Russell” running into her room and saying that Stanisavljevic had tried to light him on fire, the report said.

“He was so frantic that he broke her window and jumped out of the window and ran away,” she told police.

Ljuba then called 911. The family’s service dog, two cats and rabbit all died in the fire, according to the report.

Stanisavljevic was arrested June 3 and faces one count each of arson; attempted murder; attempted murder with a deadly weapon; domestic battery resulting in substantial bodily harm; domestic battery with a deadly weapon resulting in substantial bodily harm; abuse of an older or vulnerable person; and abuse of an older or vulnerable person resulting in substantial bodily or mental harm.

She also faces four counts of willful or malicious killing of an animal. On June 8, Stanisavljevic was released from jail on $50,000 bail and electronic monitoring, court records show.

A court hearing is scheduled for July 21.

Contact Alexis Ford at aford@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0335. Follow @alexisdford on Twitter.

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