DNA evidence links man to suspicious fire - KPTV - FOX 12

Investigators: DNA evidence links career criminal to suspicious fires

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PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -

A suspicious fire in a southeast Portland neighborhood has been ruled arson.

Fire investigators say Randall Becker burglarized an historic home on the 4500 block of Southeast Woodward Street on Aug. 15, dowsed it in gasoline and then set it on fire to destroy any evidence he left behind.

Becker was arrested on arson and burglary charges, and was booked into the Multnomah County Jail.

The home was once a refectory for St. Ignatius.

Investigators said they first knew the fire wasn't accidental after realizing the owners of the home were eco-friendly and owned no gas-powered machines or tools that would somehow start the fire.

Once they got inside of the home, an arson dog was able to detect traces of gasoline, according to investigators.

"As soon as we went through the front door, my dog immediately went to the window that blew outward, and she made an alert, said Lt. Fabian Jackson with Portland Fire.

But investigators say it was a tiny piece of evidence the black lab found that implicated Becker.

"Had that piece of evidence been 20 feet further in the fire, we would have lost it," said Lead Investigator Rick McGraw with Portland Fire.

DNA on that evidence placed a career criminal at the scene, according to investigators. And, as it turns out, Becker was treated at a local hospital shortly after the fire for severe burns to his legs.

"He gave us some story about peeing on a camp fire, and he got burned," said McGraw.

But investigators say Becker's alibi didn't add up, and they found enough evidence to arrest him for the brazen blaze.

"The people who lived there, they were totally traumatized by this. It happened in broad daylight. It did not happen in (a) cloak of darkness," said McGraw. "In my 16 years here, I've never seen anything like this."

For the family who lost everything that day, and will likely never know why, investigators hope Becker's arrest brings them a bit of closure.

"The kids in that household were more devastated then anyone, but now we can give them a return on what we do. That is the best reward," said Jackson.

Investigators say Becker is expected to accept a plea deal that would put him behind bars for 80 months, with no chance of early release.

His sentencing is scheduled for April 29 at 9 a.m.

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