AD Main Menu

Alaska teen charged with murder in house fire

A 19-year-old from southwest Alaska has been charged with multiple counts of second-degree murder for a house fire that killed three individuals last month, according to Alaska State Troopers.

A grand jury in Bethel returned a 17-count indictment against Derek Adams, of Nunam Iqua, a small village of about 187 previously known as Sheldon Point. The indictment charges the teenager with six counts of second-degree murder, one count of first-degree arson as well as 10 counts of third-degree assault. The assault charges are related to the 10 other house occupants that escaped through a window.

Three others were unable to escape the June 28 early morning blaze: 8-year old Cyprian Ignatius, 43-year-old Joseph Ignatius and 25-year-old Edward Murphy. The indictment came after troopers and the State Fire Marshal’s office investigated the deaths.

Adams remains incarcerated at the Yukon-Kuskokwim Correctional Center in Bethel. His bail has been set at $500,000.

The case was filed in Bethel, but court records don’t include an account of authorities’ investigation. It’s likely the details of the arson will not be released publicly but will unfold in court.

Adams expressed concern and surprise about the deaths in a Facebook post the day of the fire. “(E)arly this morning joey ignatious place burned down and he didn’t make it him booksie and Cyprian … man that sucks it was like all of a sudden and it hurt too my prayers to the peeps who didn’t make it and the whole family,” he wrote.

Shortly after 6 a.m. on June 28, troopers in St. Mary’s received a report of the residential fire with possible fatalities. A deputy state fire marshal and trooper traveled to the village and began investigating.

There were 14 people at the home when the fire broke out. Troopers say villagers extinguished the flames, first using buckets of water then water hoses, but the majority of the home was consumed by fire.

Two of the home’s occupants were sent to Bethel, and then to Anchorage for treatment of minor burns and smoke inhalation.

The three victims’ bodies, all males, were pulled from the home the same day the fire broke out, reportedly near its entrance.  The three were living at the home, troopers say.

Adams’s arraignment is set for July 23 at the Bethel Courthouse.

Contact Jerzy Shedlock at jerzy(at)alaskadispatch.com