Woman charged with murder

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By David Giuliani

A Las Vegas woman is charged with murder for allegedly starting a fire that resulted in another woman’s death.

Maria “Esther” Bartee-Ortega, 54, 106 Independence, is facing an open count of murder and four counts of arson. She is accused of killing Connie “Cuca” Vigil.

Police said Vigil was in an apartment on the second floor of 1108 Douglas Ave. when Bartee-Ortega lit the building on fire around 10 p.m. Saturday. That blaze destroyed the two-story home and severely damaged a next-door house. It was the first major fire in town for more than a year, officials said.

When police took Bartee-Ortega into custody, she admitted that she set a trash can on fire, but she didn’t at first acknowledge starting the blaze at 1108 Douglas, according to a criminal complaint filed in Magistrate Court.

But when Officer Robert Ortega took her to the county jail, she admitted to the house fire, the complaint states.

“Someone died in that apartment tonight. I’m going to be famous, and I lit that fire. They all should have died, those satanic (expletive). God told me to light that fire,” Bartee-Ortega was reported as saying.

The next morning, authorities, in fact, found Vigil’s body. The fire was started in a stairwell. Witnesses told police that Bartee-Ortega threatened Vigil before the fire.

Las Vegas police officers found Bartee-Ortega around 4:30 a.m., just hours after the Douglas fire started. They found her playing with a book of matches.

They considered her a suspect in three separate fires on Douglas — the homes in the 1100 block, the trash can in the 600 block and a pickup truck in the 500 block.

According to the complaint, Bartee-Ortega said the fires were pretty and that was how the world was going to end. She admitted first to the trash can fire, but she said she didn’t know why she had started the blaze, police said.

She later acknowledged that she started the truck fire as well, according to the complaint.