Student Accused of Arson for St. Elizabeth Dorm Fire
18-year-old allegedly lit toilet paper rolls in a fourth-floor bathroom, police said.
An 18-year-old student at the College of St. Elizabeth in Florham Park has been charged with arson for allegedly setting two rolls of toilet paper on fire Wednesday night in a dorm bathroom on campus, authorities announced Friday.
The student, Mykia White-Johnson of Plainfield, allegedly confessed to starting the fire when she went to Florham Park police headquarters for follow-up questioning on Thursday, according to an arrest affidavit signed by Florham Park Police Det./Sgt. Christopher Core.
A student on the floor said she saw White-Johnson enter the bathroom several time just before the alarm went off, and while White-Johnson initially told police she saw the smoke and went for help, she later handed the officer a note with the confession, the affidavit says.
Police said smoke from the fire triggered an alarm at 11:58 p.m. Wednesday. The fire was out when police and fire officials arrived at the dorm, O'Connor Hall, but a heavy smoke condition in the bathroom remained.
At police headquarters, White-Johnson allegedly said she was stressed by her poor academic performance and set the first fire with her lighter, according to the affidavit. Asked if she meant to hurt anyone, she said she did not, but indicated it was to act out against the school, the affidavit says. She also said it was an accident, and the fire must have spread to the second stall, the affidavit says.
After an investigation, White-Johnson was charged with two counts of arson and arrested with bail set at $10,000. Authorities said the student is not allowed to return to the college.
Morris County Prosecutor Robert Bianchi and Florham Park Chief of Police Patrick P. Montuore announced the arrest in a joint statement, and Bianchi said arson can have a "catastrophic impact" in a dorm.
“Although the investigation with the Florham Park Police Department is still on-going, it was prudent to take immediate action due to the possible catastrophic impact that this situation could have had on a college campus," Bianchi said. "There are far too many examples of the loss of life that have already occurred at college campuses throughout the United States from the dangers of fires in a similar context.”