DENVER — After a nearly six-month investigation, Denver police have arrested three teenagers for a devastating arson fire that left five members of a family of African immigrants dead.
Police said the teens, two of whom are 16 and the other 15, face first-degree murder charges in the Aug. 5 blaze that killed Djibril Diol, his wife Adja and their 2-year-old daughter Khadija Diol, as well as his sister, Hassan Diol, and her infant daughter, Hawa Beye.
The tragic blaze had unnerved the community and perplexed investigators who had been working with clueslike photos of a car leaving the scene and chilling, black-and-white images of three suspects wearing hoods and full masks over their faces.
“This was as complex of an investigation as I’m aware of in my entire career,” said Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen.
Many details of the crime remain shrouded in secrecy, with police limited in what information they could release — including the suspects’ names — because they are juveniles.
Pazen said that the three teens know each other, but are not related. He said there was no evidence to suggest the attack was a hate crime.
“We are very confident to say we don’t believe this is a bias-motived crime,” Pazen said. “If facts change as the investigation and prosecution continues, we can add that.”
Pazen said he could not provide further information about a possible motive to protect the integrity of the case and ensure a successful prosecution.
Immediately after the fire, Denver police opened a homicide investigation, saying there was evidence it had been intentionally set. Three other residents of the house managed to jump from the second story and survived without life-threatening injuries.
The three teens each were arrested on 10 counts of first-degree murder — five counts apiece under felony murder and extreme-indifference murder statutes — as well as three counts of attempted first-degree murder, two counts of first-degree assault, three counts of first-degree arson, eight counts of fourth-degree arson and one count apiece of first- and second-degree burglary.
Denver District Attorney Beth McCann ultimately will decide how to charge the three suspects, and whether to prosecute them as juveniles or adults.