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Woman threw gas on boyfriend in arson killing, police say

Lisa Demer

A 25-year-old Anchorage woman doused her boyfriend with gasoline as he slept on the couch and set him ablaze, killing him, according to a criminal accusation by Anchorage police.

Police said Sunday that Gina Virgilio was arrested on charges of first-degree murder, arson, criminal mischief, reckless endangerment and assault.

She was scheduled to make an initial court appearance Sunday, but a court clerk said it had been postponed because Virgilio was on suicide watch.

Killed in the East Anchorage fire early Friday was Michael Gonzalez, 24.

Firefighters and police responded to the McCarrey Street apartment building just before 2:30 a.m. Firefighters found a man, later identified as Gonzalez, dead inside.

The couple's apartment was destroyed and other units in the building were damaged by smoke and fire too, according to the complaint by homicide Detective Walter Gilmour.

Some neighbors were trapped in their apartments by smoke and ended up being treated at the hospital, most likely for smoke inhalation.

Virgilio's story about what happened changed in the hours after the fire, the complaint said.

She first said that Gonzalez was drinking with friends at the apartment Thursday night to celebrate his birthday. She said she walked to the Holiday store in Mountain View around 11 p.m. to buy gas for her vehicle, which was broken down. Officers saw the vehicle, which had a notice on the window stating it was to be towed on June 5.

Around 2:30 a.m. Friday, Gonzalez was sipping gas from a red plastic cup and spitting it onto the carpet and couch, Virgilio initially told officers. He was "acting crazy," she said. He lit a piece of paper on fire and she ran out of the apartment.

It was "me or him," she told officers. She said she heard glass breaking but never looked back.

She walked to nearby Wonder Park Elementary School and borrowed someone's cell phone to call her mother, who picked her up at the Carrs Quality Center store on Boniface Parkway. Virgilio's mother, Michelle, told police that Virgilio had been addicted to methamphetamine and heroin and that she has custody of her daughter's young child. The apartment was not a safe place for the child, Michelle Virgilio told police.

Initially, Virgilio told her mother that her boyfriend was verbally abusive and spit gasoline at her. He was using an aerosol shoe cleaner as a flame thrower, Michelle Virgilio said, recounting what her daughter had told her. She told her mother there was a fire and she had fled.

Police called Michelle Virgilio at 5:30 a.m. and asked her to bring her daughter back to the apartment. Police then interviewed her at Anchorage Police Department headquarters.

At about 7:30 p.m., the police interview ended and Virgilio returned to her mother's home. Her mother demanded to know what had happened. Virgilio told her mother she bought the gasoline and when she returned home found Gonzalez asleep on the couch. She sat next to him on the couch for a while, looking at him. Then she poured gas on and around the couch where he was sleeping, the police complaint said.

She stood near the front door, lit a piece of paper on fire and tossed the burning paper into the apartment, the complaint said.

"Hot! Hot!" Gonzalez said, according to what her mother told police. Virgilio closed the door and ran, the complaint said.

Virgilio ended up at Providence Alaska Medical Center. On Saturday, the complaint says, a nurse told police that Virgilio had waved her into her room and told her "I did it -- I killed Michael."

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Reach Lisa Demer at ldemer@adn.com or 257-4390.


By LISA DEMER
Anchorage Daily News