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Badly burned man charged with murder in fire that killed girlfriend

A man who was badly burned in a January house fire that killed his girlfriend has been indicted on two counts of second-degree murder for allegedly starting the blaze.

Frank Bredt Jr., 30, was arraigned Monday at Erie County Medical Center by State Supreme Court Justice John L. Michalski.

Bredt has been in ECMC since the Jan. 11 fire. His girlfriend, Elisabeth Bell, 28, was found dead in the house, and Bell's 7-year-old daughter sustained burns to her feet.

Police quickly identified the blaze as suspicious and considered Bredt a "person of interest" from the start. Members of the Buffalo Fire Investigation Unit also said that what appeared to be flammable accelerants were found at the scene.

Seven people were in the house at 57 Manhattan Ave. when a woman on the first floor woke up to the smell of smoke at about 3:30 a.m. She and her boyfriend saw Bredt coming downstairs on fire, screaming "Help me! Help me!"

Police said later that Bredt, badly burned, was found in the backyard of a nearby house and Elisabeth Bell's body was found on the second floor. It was later determined she died in the fire.

The judge ordered Bredt to be held without bail.

Bredt's attorney, Joel Daniels, said Bredt is still in intensive care at ECMC and continues to be heavily medicated nearly four months after the fire.

"A large percentage of his body was burned," Daniels said. "He's had multiple surgeries since this event."

Bell's mother, Cheri Altemoos, said a memorial was held for her daughter just last week.

"I am grieving the death of my daughter. I just memorialized her last week," said Altemoos, who was among the people who escaped the January fire.

 

Elisabeth Bell, 28, was found dead after a fire on Manhattan Avenue in Buffalo. (Photo courtesy Bell family)

"Now we're moving toward some type of justice," said Altemoos. "At the same time ... I have so much sorrow for this boy [Bredt] I've known since he was 16 and his family. I really do grieve for his family."

Bell's daughter has recovered from the burns she sustained on her feet and is now living with her father.

"She's doing really good," Altemoos said. "She does not know anything about what's going on."

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