Man Found Dead After Bethesda House Fire Identified; Police Still Investigating Tunnels Found

Police have identified the man who was found dead after a house fire in Bethesda, Maryland, more than two weeks ago, but investigators still aren't saying how he died. 

Askia Khafra was the man found dead in the basement of a home on the 5200 block of Danbury Road on Sept. 10, Montgomery County police said Wednesday. He was 21 and lived in Silver Spring. 

Khafra's cause of death is still under investigation. Police say an autopsy is pending. 

Explosives teams and bomb technicians spent hours Tuesday combing through evidence on the Danbury Road property. They found mysterious tunnels under the yard.

Later Wednesday, police named the resident of the house: 26-year-old Daniel Beckwitt. 

"This has been an incredibly complicated fire scene for our investigations," Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service Battalion Chief Daniel Ogren said as teams searched for clues about what happened and how Khafra died. 

Khafra was a young entrepreneur who dreamed of success in the business world, his mother 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 Beckwitt but understood that Khafra was working for him. 

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

On Tuesday, 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. 

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

Officials declined to immediately 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. 

The investigation is ongoing. 

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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