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Man Convicted of Killing Girlfriend by Dousing Her in Gasoline and Setting Their House Ablaze, Burning Himself in Process of ‘Horrific Domestic Violence’: DA

Frank Bredt Jr. (Erie County District Attorney's Office)

Frank Bredt Jr.  (Image via the Erie County District Attorney’s Office.)

A 33-year-old man in upstate New York may spend the rest of his life behind bars after a jury convicted him of murdering his girlfriend by dousing her in gasoline and intentionally setting both her and their house on fire, prosecutors said. A jury in Erie County on Tuesday found Frank J. Bredt, Jr. guilty on one count of second-degree intentional murder and one count of felony murder for the 2018 slaying of 28-year-old Elisabeth Bell, the district attorney’s office announced.

Following a six day trial, jurors deliberated for approximately four and a half hours before finding Bredt guilty on both counts, according to a press release from the Erie County DA’s Office.

District Attorney John Flynn said that what Bredt did to Bell constituted one of the most appalling and grisly crimes he had come across since taking office in January 2017.

“This is one of the most horrific domestic violence homicide cases that has been prosecuted by my office. This defendant intentionally killed his girlfriend by burning her alive in her bedroom,” Flynn said in a statement following the verdict. “I hope this defendant understands the excruciating pain that he caused this young mother after being severely burned as a result of his murderous actions. The family of Elisabeth Bell has waited a long time for justice and I hope they feel that justice has been served.”

Prosecutors said that Bredt at approximately 3:30 a.m. on Jan. 11, 2018 “poured an accelerant” onto Bell’s body while on the second floor of their home located in the 50 block of Manhattan Avenue. He then lit her on fire “with the intent to cause her death,” prosecutors said.

At the time Bredt set Bell ablaze there were five other people inside of the residence, including Bell’s 7-year-old daughter, prosecutors continued. All five were able to make it out of the burning home alive and mostly uninjured, with only Bell’s daughter sustaining burns to her feet, they alleged.

Bredt, however, was not able to make it out of the residence unscathed.

“In the course of setting the victim on fire the defendant set fire to himself and the home,” prosecutors added. After sustaining “severe burns” from the fire he set, Bredt fled the house.

A woman who was staying on the first floor of the home told investigators that she awoke at approximately 3:30 to the smell of smoke, The Buffalo News reported. After waking up her boyfriend, the couple reportedly told investigators that they then saw Bredt running down the stairs “on fire screaming ‘Help me! Help me!'”

Law enforcement officials found Bredt attempting to hide in the backyard of a nearby home, prosecutors said. Officers took Bredt into custody and transported him to the Erie County Medical Center (ECMC) in Buffalo for emergency treatment. Bredt’s burns were so severe that he was kept in the ECMC Burn Treatment Center for more than a year.

Bredt’s attorney, Joel Daniels, in May 2018 reportedly said that his client was still in the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and had undergone multiple surgeries after sustaining burns to “a large percentage of his body.”

Daniels did not immediately respond to a message from Law&Crime seeking comment on the verdict.

Bredt is facing a prison sentence of 25 years to life for each of the murder charges. He is currently scheduled to appear for a sentencing hearing before Erie County Supreme Court Judge M. William Boller at 9:30 a.m. on May 2, 2022.

[image via Erie County District Attorney’s Office]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.