Milwaukee father accused of setting children’s mother on fire complained she ‘wouldn’t pay her taxes’

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Javaunte Jefferson, 28. (Milwaukee County Office of the Sheriff)

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) – A Milwaukee man set the mother of his children on fire on Valentine’s Day “because she wouldn’t pay her taxes and was buying other stuff,” prosecutors said.

After setting Savannah Bailey ablaze, causing life-threatening injuries, a criminal complaint says Javaunte Jefferson drove away — leaving Bailey and the children outside in -1 degree weather.

Jefferson, 28, faces six felonies:

  • Attempted first-degree intentional homicide, domestic abuse assessments
  • First-degree reckless injury, domestic abuse assessments
  • Arson of building
  • First-degree recklessly endangering safety — three counts

According to the complaint, police responded to an apartment building near 8th Street and Messmer Street around 3:30 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 14, where they found Bailey with life-threatening burns covering 60% of her body — most of them third-degree burns. She told investigators she was sleeping in her bed when Jefferson “just got to pouring gasoline on me.” She said she tried to use snow to extinguish the fire as Jefferson drove off, leaving Bailey and their kids outside.

A neighbor told investigators Bailey banged on her door and she then saw that Bailey was on fire as Bailey started to roll around on the ground. The neighbor called 911 and wrapped Bailey’s children in her coat, as they were outside with no shoes or clothes on, the complaint said.

Another neighbor said around 3:15 a.m. she heard a woman screaming, and saw Jefferson putting a bag into a vehicle as he left the scene. She then saw Bailey running and rolling in the snow. She also called 911.

The fire at the apartment building was extinguished, and investigators determined it originated on a mattress in the first-floor unit’s bedroom.

Investigators spoke with Bailey’s sister, who said they were texting around 1 a.m. about an argument Bailey was having with Jefferson about work and buying things for a friend of Bailey’s, prosecutors said.

Jefferson’s 8-year-old brother told police after the fire that he had overheard a conversation between his older brother and Jefferson’s mother, according to the complaint. The boy recalled Jefferson’s mother saying, “Don’t lie to me, Javaunte,” and Jefferson replying that he “killed (Bailey) because she wouldn’t pay her taxes, and was buying other stuff.”

Authorities didn’t specify the exact nature of the relationship between Jefferson and Bailey.

Jefferson made his initial appearance in court on Tuesday. Cash bond was set at $500,000. A preliminary hearing was scheduled for Feb. 27.

GoFundMe account has been set up in Bailey’s honor.

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