Witnesses Recount Night of Fire at Strip Club

By Keith L. Alexander
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 13, 2008

Gloria Anez waited outside the Good Guys strip club in Glover Park for her husband to get off work.

It was shortly after 8 p.m. on Nov. 3 last year when she saw flames and smoke shooting from the club, then a horrifying scene: Her husband, Vladimir Djordejevic, was engulfed in flames, with his arms outstretched as he staggered forward "like a mummy," Anez said yesterday as she testified at the D.C. Superior Court trial of the man accused of setting the fire.

A year later, Djordejevic, 27, a manager at the club, remains in a Washington area hospital with second- and third-degree burns over 80 percent of his body.

Gasile Graure, a Phoenix-based truck driver who was visiting the District last year, is accused of setting the fire. Prosecutors say he was angry after being ejected from the club for taking photos of nude dancers on his cellphone.

Graure has been charged with 14 counts of assault with intent to kill, arson and other related offenses.

Prosecutors say that Graure had been asked to leave the club for taking the pictures. About 30 minutes later, he went to a nearby gasoline station. They say he bought a gas can and a lighter, filled the can with gas, returned to the club, doused it and set it ablaze.

On the second day of Graure's trial, prosecutors called several employees from the popular strip club in the 2300 block of Wisconsin Avenue NW to talk about that night.

Graure, 38, watched the proceedings impassively. His attorneys said he did not start the fire.

Kathleen Lazorchack, who has worked at the club as a waitress and manager for 16 years, said she recognized Graure as the man who had taken photos of the dancers, a violation of club rules that prompts bouncers to remove the offenders, she said.

Waitress Valerie Kremer said she saw Graure return to the club with the gas can and lighter. She said she watched Djordejevic try to pry the can from Graure's hands while Graure poured gas on the floor.

In testimony, witnesses recalled seeing flames fill the three-level nightclub. The fire made the front door impassable, so about 40 customers, waitresses and dancers pushed, shoved and fell over each other while running down the stairs to the back door.

"You could hear them screaming: 'Get out. Oh my God. Run,' " Lazorchack said.

Under cross-examination by Graure's attorney, Andrew Ferguson, Lazorchack said that she did not see Graure start the fire but that she did see him get ejected.

Djordejevic had been expected to testify, but he could not leave the hospital because of his injuries.

Anez said her husband has had 50 surgeries since the incident. He is being fed through a tube and can't sit upright. He has lost his hearing and is unable to speak. He communicates by writing or whispering.

"He's more awake," she said. "He knows where he's at and how long he's been there."

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