A man and a woman died in a New Carrollton apartment fire that erupted January 13 and a third man who was injured in the blaze has been arrested for double-murder, officials said.

Details remain murky, but police know this: Officers were called to the Fountain Club Apartments in the 7600 block of Fountainbleu Dr. about 7:45 p.m. by someone who was believed to be inside of a unit there. Neighbors reported hearing loud arguing before the blaze broke out about the same time.

Police believe Andre Allain, 44, set the fire after barricading himself and two others inside. He suffered injuries before getting away. Killed in the fire was John Michael Abbate, 45, of New Carrollton, and Tanya Winston, 53, of Glenarden. Abbate was found dead inside the apartment unit. Rescuers had tried to coax him into jumping out of the building, but he refused. Winston escaped the fire when she jumped from the apartment, but later died.

Allain, who required hospitalization, is charged with two counts of murder and one count of first-degree arson, officials said.

The fire displaced 50 residents and caused upwards of $200,000 in damage, authorities said.

Police are still trying to determine the reason why Allain allegedly set the fire. Witnesses told police that Allain climbed down from the building before fleeing to a nearby apartment basement where he was later captured by authorities.

Neighbors described a harrowing scene as authorities attempted to coax the two victims from the building as it burned. Several took phone videos of Winston as she jumped. She may have landed on her neck, according to news reports. Her clothes were burning as she made her descent.

“There was an altercation verbally between the suspect and another individual I’m not sure how that plays into the investigation itself,” Captain George Nichols of the Prince George’s County police told reporters at a press conference on Jan. 14.

Nichols said police “believe that he may have placed something behind that would’ve prevented entry from outside but I’m not sure what it was. When we got on the scene, the apartment was fully engulfed. We understand that there were some witnesses who saw the flames and saw the suspect running from the area and directed incoming officers.”

The apartment building is linked to a nonprofit organization called the Guide Program, which helps provide housing for the mentally ill. An employee who answered the telephone at the company refused to comment. The American Red Cross worked to get housing for displaced residents.

“The American Red Cross was called in by the Prince George’s Fire Department to provide help to those that were affected by the fire,” said Cheryl Kravitz, director of marketing and communication at American Red Cross in the National Capital Region. 

Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO