Police: Man Accused of Murder Knew of Increased Fire Risk in Home Before Fatal Blaze
Victim reportedly dug tunnels under his home for 'days at a time'
Via Montgomery County police
A man charged with murder in connection to a fatal Bethesda fire in September allegedly knew about the risk of fire in his home, according to court documents.
In charging documents made public on Wednesday, Montgomery County police wrote that Daniel Beckwitt, 27, was “specifically aware of the increased likelihood of a fire breaking out within hours before the call for a house fire.”
Beckwitt was arrested in Virginia on Friday and charged with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter in connection with the death of 21-year-old Askia Khafra of Silver Spring. He is expected to be transported to Montgomery County on Wednesday.
The fire broke out at 5212 Danbury Road on Sept. 10. Beckwitt escaped, but Khafra was found dead from smoke inhalation and burns in the basement.
The house had hoarding conditions inside and a series of tunnels under the home, according to county officials. The tunnels extended from a 20-foot deep entrance shaft and branched out about 200 feet underground, according to court documents.
Police wrote in charging documents that, before the fire, Beckwitt had rented a car and picked up Khafra from his home and driven him to Manassas, Virginia, multiple times. There, he “had Khafra put on darkened, black-out glasses that prevented Khafra from seeing where they were going,” police wrote.
Beckwitt allegedly told Khafra he was driving him to an “undisclosed location in Virginia,” police said, but he instead drove him back to the Danbury Road home in Bethesda. Beckwitt would guide Khafra into the basement, where Khafra was told he could take off the glasses while he would “work digging the tunnels for punctuated periods of days at a time.”
According to police, the house had significant hoarding conditions, with “immense piles of garbage” and discarded items, with “narrow maze-like pathways” through the home. The conditions allegedly prevented a quick exit from the home, and other electrical conditions contributed to the likelihood of a fire.
“[T]he substantial electrical needs of the underground tunnel complex were served by a haphazard daisy-chain of extension cords and plug extenders that created a substantial risk of fire,” police wrote.
Beckwitt's attorney did not immediately reply to a request for comment.