Woman who identified 'person of interest' in deadly South Chicago fire is a convicted arsonist

FOX 32 has learned that a woman who helped identify a "person of interest" for questioning about a deadly fire in South Chicago is a convicted arsonist herself.

“I closed and locked the door in his face. He began to kick and punch my door, I ignored the kicking and punching, right then and there is when I should have called the police,” said building resident Latoya Terry.

Terry's apartment was still smoldering early Tuesday morning when she told reporters about a neighborhood man she believed may have started the apartment fire over a dispute about money.

Four people died, including three sisters, aged seven, four and three months. A fourth man identified as 56-year-old Kirk Johnson also died.

The man identified by Terry was questioned by police, but no longer the focus of the arson investigation, despite the following statement by Terry.

“I did not know that it was going to escalate to this. Because I did not know that he had foul intentions about setting the complex on fire, starting with my apartment,” Terry said.

In her interviews, Terry did not volunteer that she is a convicted arsonist. She was sentenced to six years in prison for torching a Chicago Heights home in 2007. Eleven people were left homeless and one firefighter was injured.

On the phone Wednesday, she confirmed her arson conviction to saying she was released from prison in 2012. She told FOX 32 she was meeting with the state's attorneys at the 5th District Police Headquarters, and that "they told me I am not a suspect.”

She declined further comment.

At the scene Wednesday, investigators brought in Zelda, an ATF dog that's able to point to the presence of accelerants.

“Anything that she does has to be verified by a lab. Her hits by themselves, they need the lab verifications,” said ATF canine handler Jeff Marshall.

The special agent said he couldn't discuss what, if anything, Zelda uncovered. FOX 32 also reached out to the state's attorney’s office to ask them why Latoya Terry was meeting with prosecutors Wednesday, but they never got back to us.

The Red Cross has provided temporary housing for residents displaced by the fire.