Washington DC

Owner Charged With Murder in DC Row House Fire That Killed Boy, Man

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The owner of a D.C. row house that caught fire last summer, killing a young boy and a man, is now charged with murder.

Prosecutors charged 61-year-old James Walker with two counts of second-degree murder, saying he is responsible for the deaths of 9-year-old Yafet Solomon and the man that died after a fire broke out at an apartment on the 700 block of Kennedy Street on Aug. 18.

In the indictment, prosecutors say Walker ignore deadly conditions in the house.

The overcrowded house was not licensed for any type of residential use, according to D.C.'s Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA).

The building was divided up into dozens of tiny living spaces, sources previously told News4. Many of the residents displaced in the fire are Ethiopian immigrants who send money to their families.

Authorities said the row house's narrow halls, broken smoke detectors and barred exits were a deadly combination. Even the building's front door was blocked by metal bars, which were ripped off as tenants screamed for help.

D.C. police, the D.C. fire department and the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) knew of the hazardous conditions five months before the fire but only police took any action. Both DC Fire and DCRA inspectors failed to take action to remove families living in the house.

Walker pleaded not guilty on Wednesday and he was released without bail pending his next court date. He refused to answer any of News4's questions on his way out of court.

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