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Brooklyn man charged with murder following fatal building fire

Prosecutors charged a Bedford-Stuyvesant man with murder in connection to a March 16 building fire. (Photo by Lloyd Mitchell)

BY KEVIN DUGGAN

A Bedford-Stuyvesant man has been charged with second-degree murder after a fatal building fire left one man dead last week, according to officials.

Prosecutors for Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez have accused Derek Whitaker, 54, of killing 55-year-old Mount Vernon resident Jonathan Blake. Whitaker has also been charged with arson, concealing a corpse, tampering with a witness, and hindering prosecution at his Jefferson Avenue apartment building, according to officials.

First responders rushed to the building near Marcus Garvey Boulevard on March 16 just after 2 pm, and when New York’s Bravest extinguished a small blaze there, they found Blake’s body with severe burns in the basement.

A spokeswoman for the city’s Chief Medical Examiner did not immediately provide a cause of death for Blake.

Police took Whitaker into custody at the 81st Precinct shortly after and arrested him on March 18 on arson and related charges, before deeming the death a homicide on March 22.

Whitaker faces 25 years to life behind bars for his alleged crimes, according to a spokesman for the DA’s office, who could not provide a court date, given that court officials have postponed all appearances due to the novel coronavirus.

This story first appeared on brooklynpaper.com.

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