Deranged arsonist who set fatal blaze in Manhattan apartment gets 20 years to life in prison


The deranged firebug who set a deadly blaze in his Manhattan apartment and then attacked firefighters as they tried to save his neighbors was sentenced to 20 years to life Monday.Wei Chu Hu, who allegedly told his roommate, “I die, you die, everybody dies” before starting the wild inferno in 2013, pleaded guilty to arson and second-degree murder.

Hu committed the “thoughtless crime” after having a fight with his wife, said prosecutor Craig Ortner.

Renee Willems, 66, died in the fiery mess Hu created. “Renee lived there for 18 years. She was minding her own business in her own home when she paid the ultimate price,” Ortner said.

She had studied languages in Paris and worked as a translator for the United Nations, Ortner said, as he described her life.

She later authored children’s stories and was happily married. Her husband was out buying groceries when Hu started the fatal blaze.

Georgine Willems, 70, flew in from Brussels to witness the sentencing of the man who killed her sister.

She said her brother-in-law was utterly devastated and didn’t attend because “he could not stand it.”

Hu’s lawyer said his client was filled with remorse.

“He acknowledged his actions and the consequences of his actions, which he did not do earlier. He feels depression because he set a fire and one person died and he has to go to jail,” said attorney Kenneth Walsh.

The information was cold comfort for the grieving Willems, who said they haven’t recovered from her senseless death.

“I couldn’t believe it, it was such a shock. You don’t expect it to happen… It’s terrible,” said the victim’s sister.

Hu’s sentencing gave her “a little bit of relief.”

“I’m not happy, but I think it’s fair,” she added.

This article originally appeared in The New York Daily News

Author: sabrinacaserta

Sabrina Caserta, born and bred in Bronx, New York, is a freelance reporter whose work has appeared in the New York Daily News and Street Sense- a homeless-run street paper located in the District. As a member of Roger Williams University’s class of 2016, Sabrina studied Journalism and Political Science. This fueled her passion for social justice reporting, including issues of homelessness, institutionalized racism, poverty, education and the environment. She also served as the Project Director of the nation-brand initiative, The Re:Imagine Jamaica Project, and as a Resident Assistant for three years. As an avid reader, health enthusiast and travel addict, Sabrina enjoys yoga, cooking and writing in her spare time. She aspires to one day be an investigative journalist and travel the world. Twitter: @sabrinacaserta Email: sabcaserta AT gmail DOT com

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