Man Charged in Fire Death at Mysterious Bethesda Tunnel House

A man has been charged with murder after a deadly fire at a Bethesda home under which officials found a network of tunnels. 

Askia Khafra, 21, died last September of smoke inhalation and burns after a fire in the 5200 block of Danbury Road. 

Montgomery County police said Friday they arrested Daniel Beckwitt, 27, and charged him with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter in Khafra's death. 

Beckwitt was arrested about 6:30 p.m. Friday in Burke, Virginia. 

After the fire, explosives teams and bomb technicians spent hours at the house combing through evidence. They found unexplained tunnels under the yard and chemicals stored on the property, which is about a mile northwest of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Investigators also found electrical wiring and hoarding conditions. A piece of heavy earth-moving equipment sat in the backyard. 

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

A lawsuit filed by Montgomery County states Daniel Beckwitt was the creator of the tunnels and David Beckwitt, his father, is the owner of the home, WTOP reports

The lawsuit called for the property to be restored and said the excavations extend beyond the home into the public right of way in front of the house and possibly to at least another property.

The Beckwitts responded in court documents Friday and denied that the residential building and tunnels are unsafe and/or require corrective action, WTOP reports.

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, 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. 

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."

Beckwitt appeared in Fairfax County court Tuesday morning.

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