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.”

Keith Dent November 18, 2012 at 03:41 PM
Why can't there be a middle ground. She should pay for her crime, but she should also get help. I don't know much about St.'Elizabeth, but based on the article she was probably not academically ready for the rigors of college, but didn't have anyone to turn to. If you receive a high school education at an urban school the jump to college can be so overwhelming it can put you through many changes. I agree with Patriot that our education system needs to be corrected.
CAMERON November 18, 2012 at 08:59 PM
How DUMB can you be? Glad she was kicked out. Also happy no one was hurt.
M&M November 21, 2012 at 04:25 AM
As a CSE student, I have to say that this college gives help to anyone who needs it. If she wanted more help with her classes, not only will the professors stay 2-3 hours after class with students who don't understand the subject but there is also a free tutoring center open from 8-5. She should have reached out for as assistance instead of starting a fire. On the other hand, I know she did something stupid that could have harmed a lot of people, (me included) but how many kids her age haven't done something stupid? 18 year olds get drunk and high and go out driving all the time, endangering the lives of others. Young adults make stupid mistakes; some get caught, others are lucky. So, I agree, this girl made a really dumb mistake, but this kind of mistake will shadow her life for a long time. I feel bad for her. It's easy to say she was an idiot, but who hasn't acted like an idiot at some point in their life. Maybe try to put yourself in her shoes for a second. She screwed up her whole life in a matter of five minutes, for no good reason. I am glad that nothing bad happened to us, but now that its over, I feel sorry for her and my prayers go out to her and her family.
Patriot November 21, 2012 at 04:50 PM
Now...Reality.....so tired of listening to bleeding hearts...People have to take responsibility for their actions...period! Stop the equivocating....she made a decision, acted, and now she must face the consequences. M&M appears to blatantly suggest kids are drinking, drugging, and driving under the influence daily and that it is not a big deal....some get caught and some are just LUCKY? How appalling! What has this "stolen" generation become? What depths of wanton despair are they capable of?America WAKE UP! These are examples of our society, indoctrinated by our socialistic infiltrated system of education. The ME , entitlement, thug generation that accepts no responsibility for themselves or their actions. Hold them accountable and shake some moral sense into them before it is too late. Parents get involved with your children's education. Look into what they are being taught and by whom, because if you don't care enough to become involved our society will be lost.
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