Taija Russell, 29, is facing multiple charges including attempted homicide after police said she burned a man’s house down after he failed to answer the door.
The victim, who was not publicly identified, told Woodbury, New Jersey, police officers that he had invited Russell over to his house for a late-night hookup on August 4. But by the time she arrived, he had already fallen asleep and she was left standing outside.
Police said Russell retaliated by setting the house on fire. Investigators identified her after reviewing surveillance video and speaking to witnesses.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. The Victim Told Police He’d Invited Taija Russell Over For Sex
Taija Russell went to the home on Barber Avenue in Woodbury, New Jersey early in the morning on August 4, 2019, after receiving an invitation.
The man who lived there, whose name was not released, told police he had invited Russell to come over for sex.
The victim described Russell as a “‘side chick’ whom he had been having a sexual relationship with,” according to the criminal complaint cited by the Cherry Hill Courier-Post. Heavy has reached out to the Woodbury Police Department for a copy of the complaint.
2. Police: Taija Russell Called the Victim Multiple Times & Left Angry Text Messages
The late-night hookup never happened because the victim fell asleep. Taija Russell reportedly knocked on the door but he never answered.
Police said during the course of the investigation, they discovered that Russell had called the victim eight times. She had also left him text messages that read, “You wasted my money to come out here” and “I see you wanna die,” according to the affidavit.
Woodbury Police said they analyzed surveillance video from around the area to identify Russell. Investigators said she was recorded outside of the victim’s house shortly before the fire started. She was also seen at a nearby gas station around 4 a.m., where police said she bought lighter fluid and matches.
3. The Victim Climbed Out a Window to Escape the Flames & Firefighters Rescued His Dog
The victim told Woodbury Police that he woke up around 4:30 a.m. and realized his home was on fire. He couldn’t leave out the front door because flames were blocking it. According to the criminal complaint, he escaped out a window and ran to the police station.
The Woodbury Fire Department rushed to the scene and managed to rescue the man’s dog. The house was destroyed and investigators soon declared it to be arson.
The man was treated for smoke inhalation and first-degree burns at Inspira Hospital.
4. Taija Russell Was Arrested Several Days Later & Charged With Attempted Homicide
Investigators quickly identified Taija Russell as a suspect in the arson. The day after the fire, the Woodbury Police Department filed charges against Russell that included:
- Attempted Homicide
- Aggravated Arson
- Aggravated Assault
- Endangering/Creating Substantial Risk of Death
- Criminal Mischief
It would be several more days before investigators found Russell. Woodbury Police shared on Facebook that Russell was taken into custody on August 13 “with the assistance of the Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office Fugitive Unit and US Marshals Task Force – Camden Division.”
Inmate records show that Russell posted bond and was released on August 16.
5. Taija Russell Does Not Appear to Have a Prior Record
A search of online records does not bring up any prior criminal arrests or charges against Taija Russell. The only possible record that comes up is a traffic ticket in 2018 for faling to wear a seat belt.
Russell appears to have made her social media accounts private or deleted them.
A LinkedIn profile with her name brings up a job as a sales associate at a Charlotte Russe store in Merchantville, New Jersey, beginning in 2010.