Maryland

Cause of Death Given for Man Found After Mysterious Bethesda Fire

Asika Khafra, 21, was found dead in the basement of a house with unexplained tunnels under the yard

Officials now know the cause of death of a man whose body was found after a mysterious fire this fall in Bethesda, Maryland. 

Askia Khafra died of smoke inhalation and burns, autopsy results released Wednesday say. 

The 21-year-old was found dead in the basement of a house on the 5200 block of Danbury Road on Sept. 10. Explosives teams and bomb technicians later spent hours at the house combing through evidence. They found unexplained tunnels under the yard.

Officials still have not released information on the cause of the fire or the purpose of the tunnels. 

Khafra was a young entrepreneur who dreamed of success in the business world, his mother previously told News4 on a brief phone call. 

"He had a lot of people that cared about him," said Brandon Cobb, who described himself as Khafra's best friend. The two grew up together.

Cobb said he never met Daniel Beckwitt, the 26-year-old owner of the house, but said he understood that Khafra was working for him. 

"The only thing he mentioned is he was doing some sort of renovation," Cobb said. 

Investigators collected and tested chemicals they found stored on the property, which is about a mile northwest of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. They found electrical wiring and hoarding conditions. A piece of heavy earth-moving equipment sat in the backyard. 

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The resident of the house did "excavation" of the property, Montgomery County police department spokesman Paul Starks previously said.

Officials declined to provide additional details about why the tunnels might have been dug.

First responders received a call about the fire about 4 p.m. Sept. 10.

Beckwitt was able to escape and yell for help, but Khafra was trapped in the basement. 

Beckwitt suffered minor injuries. He was taken to a hospital and later released. Khafra was pronounced dead. 

Neighbors said they want answers.

"I want to know whether there was anything wrong with the house itself or whether it was a gas line or whether there was something strange going on there -- and we just don't know," one neighbor said.

"I think the main question is, where is this gentleman [Khafra] was working for?" Khafra's friend, Cobb, said. "I think everyone just wants closure." 

News4 was unable to reach Beckwitt. 

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