By Jesse Leavenworth, The Hartford Courant
MANCHESTER — Police on Friday arrested a local man on charges that he killed a woman and set fire to her bedroom on Park Street last month.
Steven Durdek Jr., 21, was charged with felony murder, murder, first-degree arson, first-degree burglary and tampering with physical evidence, police spokesman Capt. Christopher Davis said. Durdek was being held on bail of $1 million for an appearance Tuesday in Manchester Superior Court.
Durdek is charged with killing Sarah Kelloway, 56, whose body was found in a fire-gutted bedroom of her apartment on Jan. 18. The state medical examiner found that Kelloway died from blunt force trauma to her head.
Durdek, of 180 Chestnut St., apparently did not know Kelloway, Davis said. Police said he illegally entered the apartment where she lived alone. There was no sign of forced entry, Davis said.
Durdek used accelerant that he apparently found at the scene, police said. Kelloway was one of three people inside the apartment house when the fire was reported at about 5 a.m.; the resident landlord and another tenant escaped, officials said.
The blaze was largely contained to Kelloway’s third-floor bedroom in the “mini mansion,” which had been converted into five apartments. The first police officers on the scene tried to enter Kelloway’s apartment, but conditions were too dangerous, Fire Chief Robert Bycholski has said.. After firefighters doused the blaze, they found the badly burned corpse on a bed.
Kelloway’s former husband, William Meikle of Andover, has said that he and Kelloway had four children together. The two separated about 14 years ago, Meikle said.
Durdek has a previous arrest history, Davis said, but nothing approaching the level of the charges he now faces.
Davis credited the arrest to the work done by the lead investigator, Manchester Det. Dave Miele, along with state police with the Western District Major Crime Squad, town and state fire marshals and the state’s attorney’s office.