A man accused of igniting a tent on skid row and burning a 62-year-old homeless man to death earlier this week has been charged with murder, prosecutors announced Wednesday.
Jonathan Early, 38, is facing one count of murder in the death of Dwayne Fields, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office. The charge includes a special circumstance allegation that the crime was intentional and that it involved the infliction of torture, the DA’s Office said.
Early allegedly set a tent on fire near 6th and San Pedro streets in downtown L.A. on Monday, burning the victim, who was inside.
A source told the Los Angeles Times that Fields was walking near the intersection on fire when first responders arrived, and though they were able to put out the flames he died the next morning at a hospital.
Early fled but was detained soon after, officials said. A law enforcement source described him as a transient, the Times reported.
The Times described Fields as a beloved musician skillful at blues guitar and mentor in skid row. He’d been in and out of housing, but the stints never lasted long because most buildings couldn’t accommodate his girlfriend with mobility issues, a nonprofit leader who knew him told the newspaper.
The defendant could face the death penalty or life in prison without parole if convicted as charged, according to prosecutors. They will decide whether or not to seek capital punishment at a later date, the DA’s Office said.
Early is being held on $2 million bail, county inmate records show.
Authorities provided no further details on the case, which remains under investigation by the L.A. police and fire departments.
The incident happened the same day LAPD released video of a 59-year-old homeless man beaten with a metal pole and left for dead in the skid row area. The department has not announced an arrest in that attack.