Grand Jury Indicts Homeowner for Murder in Connection with Fatal Fire

James G. Walker, 61, the owner of a commercially zoned row house at 708 Kennedy Street, N.W., was arraigned by Superior Court of the District of Columbia Judge Ronna L. Beck on two counts of second degree murder and two counts of involuntary manslaughter.  

           According to the indictment and related court documents, on August 18, 2019, Fitsum Kebede, Yafet Solomen, and others resided at the row house on Kennedy Street owned by Walker.  Although Walker used the structure as a boarding house, he did not have a certificate of occupancy for the building and the structure was in violation of several fire safety codes.  During the morning of August 18, 2019, a fire broke out inside the building.  Kebede and Solomen were in the basement at the time and were unable to exit the premises.  They subsequently died from smoke inhalation.  Following the indictment, Walker was arrested on January 15, 2020.

            An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence of guilt.  The defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty.  If convicted, Walker faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, and five years of supervised release.