A landlord accused of setting a tenant on fire after fatally shooting her and her sister was ordered held without bond yesterday in D.C. Superior Court.
Arraignment Commissioner Thomas Gay placed Francois Robert Bourgeau, a Mount Rainier man, in preventive custody after Assistant U.S. Attorney Pat Riley said the offense with which Bourgeau is charged was a "completely unprovoked murder of two persons . . . just over a rent dispute."
Bourgeau, 48, who is being held in the D.C. Jail, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder and one count of felony murder.
The slayings took place mid-afternoon Thursday, police said, when a man armed with a shotgun entered an apartment at 3404 13th St. NW, where resident Darrena Shelton, 25, and her sister, Sabrina Shelton, 28, of 533 16th St. NE were napping with their children. The assailant opened fire, fatally wounding the sisters, then went to the living room and fired a shot that slightly wounded their mother, Gloria Shelton, of 529 16th St. NE.
The assailant returned to the bedroom and dragged Darrena Shelton's body outside, where he doused it with a flammable liquid and set it afire, police said.
They said the three children of the Shelton sisters, who were in the bedroom at the time of the attack, were not wounded.
Autopsies yesterday showed that Sabrina Shelton died of a gunshot wound to the abdomen, and Darrena Shelton died of gunshot wounds to the back, chest, abdomen and groin, according to the D.C. medical examiner's office.
Bourgeau has lived in the Washington area for 26 years, according to court records. One of his two daughters, Sandra Bourgeau of Chillum Heights, said her father is a native of Haiti and had been employed by the Grand Union food store chain until the company withdrew from the Washington area.
She said she, her sister and their mother, Dalva Bourgeau, moved from Bourgeau's residence at 3109 Bunker Hill Rd. in Mount Rainier about three years ago. She said her mother, who immigrated here from Brazil, is divorced from her father.
Bourgeau's sole source of income, court records indicate, is from rental properties he owns in the District of Columbia. The rent dispute at the Shelton apartment, police said, was of approximately six months' duration.
Until six months ago, Darrena Shelton shared the $280 a month apartment with her grandmother, Selena Toye. Toye, 84, was fatally stabbed in her bed at the Washington Hospital Center last Oct. 14. Cardell Shelton, Toye's grandson and Darrena Shelton's brother, has been charged with murder in what police described as an apparent mercy killing. Shelton has been released while the case is pending before the grand jury.
Sandra Bourgeau said her father gave his tenant "a whole bunch of chances to get out of the place . . . . They weren't paying their rent. He kept giving them chances and they wouldn't pay the rent."
On Monday, Bourgeau was arrested on a charge of unlawfully entering the Shelton apartment.
Darrena Shelton's roommate Sylvia Barnes said that Bourgeau refused to take their rent money when he appeared at the apartment Monday and at that time he ordered them to move out. Barnes said she and Darrena had found another apartment and were planning to move when the slayings took place.
Rosearl Bradley, grandmother of Darrena's oldest child, said yesterday that the dispute apparently arose after Toye's death. "When her grandmother died the landlord complained that Darrena's name was not on the lease," said Bradley.
"Darrena called here one time crying and my son went up there to check on her," Bradley recalled. "One time she thought she had found an apartment and I loaned her the money but she wasn't able to get the aparment.
"I just wish that if she ever needed the money for another place that bad she would have come to me again," said Bradley.
The Shelton family, including the three children of the victims, was in seclusion yesterday at Gloria Shelton's Northeast apartment. A sister of the victims said there are five girls and three boys in the family.
Neighbor Mary Keenon said, "Sabrina and her mother would travel back and forth from place to place. They would cook and take food to each other, have cookouts and fix food for the brothers.
"Sabrina was a home person," Keenon said. "She loved her son. It still seems like I ought to hear her yelling his name."
In the Mount Rainer neighborhood where Bourgeau has lived for about seven years, residents expressed shock that their neighbor had been charged in the brutal crime. Bourgeau's blue pickup truck, which he used to do odd jobs and repair work at his properties, was parked in a driveway of his aquamarine colored bungalow.
"He's always been a good neighbor," said Linda Lilley. "He played ball with my older children . . . . He'd say 'hi' to my kids by name. Frank was just well liked around the neighborhood."
In front of the Columbia Heights apartment building where the Shelton sisters were killed, a charred profile of a woman was still visible in the cement yard yesterday. Curious passers-by stopped at the fence surrounding the yard, chatted and stared at the spot.
"Why did he have to burn her?" asked neighbor Mary Bridgers as she paused by the fence on her way to work. "She tried to pay him the rent but he wouldn't take it. He just wanted her out."