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Saturday, October 21, 2023

The Carlos Diaz Attempted Murder-Arson Case

     Carlos Diaz and Cathy Zappata were married in 2007. He worked at W. D. Auto Repair at Tenth Avenue and 207th Street in Harlem, New York. A year later the couple had a son. In 2010 Mr. Diaz lost his job at the body shop, and shortly after that his marriage fell apart. He became homeless, moving from one parking lot to another where he slept in his van.

     Although estranged from his wife Carlos Diaz refused to accept the fact they were finished as a couple. He resented it when she, to improve her looks, had cosmetic breast surgery and liposuction. She also made him jealous by going out with other men.

     On January 15, 2013 Diaz became enraged when he discovered that his estranged wife had sent a nude photograph of herself by cellphone to another man. The next morning, at eight o'clock, Carlos Diaz asked Cathy to meet him at a Pathmark parking lot on Ninth Avenue at 207th Street where he had spent the night in his van. The lot was a block from the auto body shop where he had once worked.

     As Cathy sat behind the wheel of her car her estranged husband sprayed the 38-year-old's face, head and neck with lighter fluid then ignited the accelerant with a blowtorch. With her entire head engulfed in flames Cathy managed to exit the vehicle and extinguish the fire by rolling in a puddle of water. The victim was rushed to Harlem Hospital's burn unit with second-degree burns on her lips, eyelids, nose, cheeks and neck. Her hair had been burned off to the scalp. Doctors listed her condition as critical.

     After setting his estranged wife on fire Mr. Diaz, in possession of a can of gasoline, entered the W. D. Auto Repair garage. He found the owner, Helson Marachena, the man who had fired him, in his office. Diaz doused the room with the accelerant, but when he tried to set fire to the place, his lighter wouldn't fire. The malfunctioning lighter gave Mr. Marachena the opportunity to escape.

     Later in the day the 35-year-old arsonist turned himself in to the New York City police. When questioned by detectives he said, "I had to teach her a lesson. To give her a little pain. Now she can worry about our kid and get serious instead of focusing on going out with other men." In relating how he felt when he discovered the nude photograph on his wife's cellphone, Diaz said, "I couldn't think straight. I wanted to pass out. I had to do something. I had to be a man about it. She hurt my pride." Diaz described his perception of his marriage this way: "She was my right arm. I did everything for her. I forgot all about my own life. I just worked to support her and to pay the rent. And this is what she does."

     Charged with attempted murder, arson, assault and attempted assault, Diaz was held at the city jail on Riker's Island. A magistrate denied him bail.

     On December 15, 2015 a jury in New York City took just four hours to find Carlos Diaz guilty of attempted murder and the other charges. Three weeks later the judge sentenced Diaz to 35 years to life in prison.

     Jealous boyfriends, discarded husbands and rejected suitors can be dangerous. In the annals of crime men like Carlos Diaz have done terrible things with fire, including mass murder. It's extremely difficult for women to protect themselves from angry, sociopathic losers who justify their acts of violence. 

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