Wrongful Death Suit Filed Against Bethesda Man Who Dug Tunnels Under House

Wrongful Death Suit Filed Against Bethesda Man Who Dug Tunnels Under House

Askia Khafra’s parents allege that Daniel and David Beckwitt showed negligence toward dangerous conditions that led to their son’s death

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Daniel Beckwitt

File photo

One year after 21-year-old Askia Khafra of Silver Spring burned to death in the basement of a Bethesda house, his parents have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the owner of the house and his son.

Khafra’s parents, Dia and Claudia, filed a lawsuit Monday in Montgomery County Circuit Court against property owner David Beckwitt and his son, Daniel.

Askia Khafra died Sept. 10, 2017, when a fire broke out in the basement of the Beckwitt home at 5212 Danbury Road. Khafra had agreed to help Daniel Beckwitt, a 27-year-old millionaire who lived in the home, dig tunnels beneath the home in exchange for Beckwitt’s investment in an internet company that Khafra was launching, according to The Washington Post.

Beckwitt allegedly dug the tunnels under his father’s home out of fear of a North Korean attack. He has since been charged with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter in connection with Khafra’s death. A criminal trial is scheduled for April 2019.

The complaint, obtained by Bethesda Beat, states the “hoarder” conditions at the Beckwitt home, which included piles of garbage that created “maze-like conditions” as well as extension cords that stretched from the house into the tunnels, made exiting the tunnels difficult, in addition to creating a fire hazard. It also states that both Daniel and David Beckwitt, who lives in a retirement community in Virginia, should have been aware that the conditions in the home would likely lead to a fire, which allegedly constitutes “actual malice.”

Donna McBride, an attorney representing the Khafras in the wrongful death suit, said Thursday the couple filed the civil suit to seek justice for their son. The couple believes the Beckwitts must pay financially in addition to any criminal penalties Daniel Beckwitt may receive, McBride said. She said the Khafras have chosen to exercise their right to pursue civil charges in addition to criminal ones.

McBride said the suit seeks damages in excess of $75,000, and any money that the Khafras are awarded will be donated to charity, or used to create a fund in Askia’s name.

“They’re not bringing this suit for their own personal benefit,” she said. “It was Mrs. Khafra’s only child, and obviously they’re both heartbroken.”

Robert Bonsib, the defense attorney for the Beckwitts, could not immediately be reached for comment.

According to online court records, a scheduling hearing for the lawsuit will be held in December.

Dan Schere can be reached at Daniel.schere@bethsdamagazine.com

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