According to Heavy, 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.
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.
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.
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.