Chelsea Woman Admits Starting Fire

A Chelsea woman was held on $1 million cash bail last week after a Suffolk County prosecutor said she admitted to setting a Christmas Eve fire that killed 20-year-old Crystal Blanchard, left her boyfriend with third-degree burns, and injured two firefighters, Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley said.

Melissa Pfeiffer, 27, of Chelsea, was arraigned in Suffolk Superior Court last Thursday on a five-count indictment charging her with second-degree murder, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon – specifically fire – causing serious injury, arson, and two counts of causing injury to a firefighter as a result of criminal conduct.

In the aftermath of the fire, investigators retrieved from the scene a number of sketches that Blanchard – a talented anime artist – had left behind. In a meeting before this morning’s arraignment, Assistant District Attorney Julie Higgins and Katherine Moran, the victim-witness advocate assigned to the case, put those sketches in a binder and presented them to Blanchard’s mother, stepfather, and cousin.

Higgins told Clerk Magistrate Gary D. Wilson that the fire at 295 Spruce St. in Chelsea was intentionally started and had its origin inside Pfeiffer’s first floor apartment.

“Evidence suggests that the defendant intentionally set the fire that fateful night inside her apartment after having a fight with her boyfriend,” Higgins said. “The defendant set some of her boyfriend’s belongings on fire.”

That fire, Higgins said, soon spread to the second floor of the five-unit apartment building, where Blanchard and her 33-year-old boyfriend were home watching a movie. When they heard the smoke alarm go off, the boyfriend went to the window to see what was happening and saw the building was aflame.

The two were trapped on the building’s second floor by smoke and flames. The boyfriend suffered serious burns before finally jumping from a window.

“He suffered fractured vertebrae and a fractured ankle,” Higgins told the court. “He sustained third-degree burns to his extremities. He continues to receive 24-hour medical care and will face lasting consequences from the fire for the rest of his life.”

Blanchard died in the fire, the prosecutor said.

“She was found unresponsive at the top of the second floor stairwell,” Higgins said. “Ms. Blanchard died from smoke inhalation and thermal injuries. Her body at autopsy presented with significant physical trauma from the fire that roared below her.”

Additionally, two Chelsea firefighters suffered from smoke inhalation during their efforts to suppress the conflagration.

The investigation by Chelsea Police, State Police homicide detectives assigned to Conley’s office, the Chelsea Fire Department, and investigators from the State Fire Marshal’s office revealed that the fire had been deliberately set by “human intervention,” Higgins said.

“Following the fire, the defendant made highly incriminating statements, including admissions to starting the fire,” Higgins said. “Those statements were reported to the police and subsequently to the Grand Jury.”

Pfeiffer is represented by attorney James Doyle. She will return to court on May 5.

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