DA: 3 people charged in Lowell fire that killed 1 man and injured 5

LOWELL, Mass. — Three people have been charged in connection with a fatal fire in Lowell on Feb. 10 that killed one man and injured several others.

Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan said in a statement that Julian Boykins, 20 of Lowell; Alexander Gaye, 16 of Lowell and Tanya Karadanis, 19, of Dracut have been charged in connection with intentionally setting fire to the multi-family home at 98 Westford St. in Lowell on Feb. 10.

“Bring arsonists to justice as they have done today,” said Fire Marshal Peter Ostroskey.

The fire resulted in the death of third-floor resident Em Chak, injured three other tenants, two Lowell firefighters and one police officer; and displaced over 50 people.

Julian Boykins has been charged with murder, arson of a dwelling, three counts of armed assault to murder, injury to a firefighter, intimidation of a witness and conspiracy.

Alexander Gaye has been charged with murder, arson of a dwelling, three counts of armed assault to murder, injury to a firefighter and intimidation of a witness.

Tanya Karadanis has been charged with evidence tampering and conspiracy.

Shortly after 3:13 a.m. on Feb. 10, 2021, Lowell Police and Fire responded to Westford Street for a 3-alarm fire that extended to two neighboring structures. Based on the preliminary investigation, the State Fire Marshal’s office determined that the fire was likely intentionally set by the application of an open flame to available combustibles.

Surveillance footage collected from the area of the fire showed that on the night of Feb. 10, Julian Boykins and Alexander Gaye allegedly traveled to the Westford Street apartment building together and entered the back entrance prior to the building becoming engulfed in flames. The video also shows the two men, later identified as Boykins and Gaye, leaving the scene in a small four-door sedan.

On Wednesday, Feb. 17, police located surveillance video of the sedan at a Merrimack Street gas station in Lowell. Later that day, police located the vehicle with Boykins in the passenger seat. Boykins was subsequently placed him under arrest on an outstanding warrant unrelated to this incident.

“Mr. Boykins, and Gaye allegedly traveled together, and entered the back entrance, seconds before the building became engulfed in flames,” said Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan.

The subsequent investigation revealed that Boykins and Gaye allegedly traveled to the apartments intending to set fire on a trash bag before fleeing the scene.

While Boykins was in custody, he was in communication with his girlfriend, Tanya Karadanis, according to the district attorney. During that communication Boykins allegedly instructed Karadanis to remove the SIM card from his phone and destroy it in an attempt to get rid of evidence in this case. Karadanis allegedly attempted to destroy the evidence as instructed and has subsequently been charged in connection with those actions.

“The method of setting that fire was by using a cigarette lighter, applied to a trash bag left in the back hallway,” said Ryan.

Boykins and Karadanis were arrested Thursday at a Pawtucket Street residence without incident. Boykins is expected to be arraigned on Friday in Lowell District Court. Karadanis was arraigned Thursday in Lowell District Court. Judge Ellen Caulo set bail at $5,000 cash with conditions that she stay away from and have not contact with any victims or codefendants, submit to GPS monitoring with certain exceptions for work. The next court date is March 15, 2021.

Police are actively searching for Gaye, and ask anyone with information about his whereabouts to contact Lowell Police. Gaye is described as a Black man with a thin build about 5 feet 8 inches tall. He is believed to be in the Greater Lowell area.

An investigation is ongoing by the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office, Massachusetts State Police Detectives assigned to that office, the State Fire Marshal’s Office and Massachusetts State Police assigned to that office, Lowell Police, Lowell Fire, the Massachusetts State Police Violent Apprehension Section and the Middlesex Sheriff’s Office.

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