A man faces felony murder and arson charges in connection with a deadly condo fire in Austell, authorities said.
Photo: Channel 2 Action News
Photo: Channel 2 Action News

Man faces murder, arson charges after Cobb condo fire kills woman, dog

A man has been charged with felony murder and arson endangerment in connection with a Cobb County condominium fire last week that killed a woman and a dog, officials said.

Richard Elsner is accused of intentionally setting a fire at a condo in the 2000 block of Drennon Avenue in Austell on Oct. 23, Cobb County Fire spokeswoman Denell Boyd told AJC.com.

Elsner lived in the apartment with his wife, Diane, and the victim, who Cobb County Fire Investigator Brian Beaty identified as Sharon Croft, who was in her mid-60s.

RELATED: Woman, dog die in Cobb County condo fire

Around 7:20 a.m., firefighters arrived at the condo after the fire started in an upstairs bedroom, Boyd said. Elsner and his wife evacuated the burning condo, but Croft was rescued by firefighters and taken to WellStar Cobb Medical Center, where she later died.

This is a screenshot of Diane Elsner speaking to Channel 2 Action News on Oct. 23 after the deadly fire. (Photo: Channel 2 Action News)

Diane Elsner spoke to Channel 2 Action News on the day of the fire and said Croft was one of her best friends.

“I loved her to death, and she was like a sister to me,” she said. “My husband is disabled, so I tried to get him out because he was in the room where the flames were, so I had to try to get him down the stairs, and once I did that and tried to go back up, it was just too hot ... I couldn’t breathe.”

 

Beaty said witness statements and text messages that showed there were previous fires at that condo were factors in charges being filed against Richard Elsner.

He remains at WellStar Cobb Medical Center awaiting surgery, Boyd said. 

An investigation is ongoing. Anyone with information is asked to call fire investigators at 770-499-3869.