A California man has been charged with setting a house fire that killed several of his family members, police say.
Wilber Romero, 26, has been charged with three counts of first-degree murder, two of attempted murder, and arson causing great bodily injury in connection to the fire that killed his parents and sister, and injured his siblings about a week ago, according to online court records.
Romero's father, Jose Antonio Romero, 44, and his mother, Nicolasa Mayo, 46 both died in the fire, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported. Romero’s sister, Iris Romero, 21, also succumbed to her injuries in the hospital following the fatal blaze, according to the newspaper.
The family’s home went up in flames shortly before 4:30 a.m. on Oct. 13, according to KGTV.
"Neighbors told 911 dispatchers a family lived in the home and (that) they could hear screaming inside," Lieutenant Martha Sainz told KFMB.
"Due to the intense fire conditions, it took a little while for us to get it knocked down and get in there and get those victims out," San Diego Fire-Rescue Department battalion chief Steve Salaz also said.
Romero, who denied setting the fire, initially told the ABC News affiliate he had awoken in the middle of the night to discover his family’s San Diego home was ablaze.
"My dogs were jumping on me, trying to wake me up. I woke up,” he told KGTV. “When I woke up, my bed was on fire. I jumped out of bed and started screaming the house is on fire.”
Romero, reportedly unharmed in the fire, identified himself as the oldest son in the family during the interview.
One neighbor supposedly used a rock to smash through the debris to rescue some members of the family.
"There was a person screaming at the window, screaming to help him,”Jose Barriento told KNSD. "I ran and threw a large stone at the door. It broke, and another one person came to open it."
Others reported to seeing those inside frantically reaching through bars in the windows, unable to escape the inferno.
"The minute I stepped out of my restroom, my house on the inside felt warm, like really warm,” the family’s neighbor, Maria Orona, also told KGTV. “The curtain was open and I looked across the neighbor's house was just bursting [into] flames."
"I thought it was like a scary movie,” Jamie Felix, a family friend, told KNBC. “I thought it was a nightmare, honestly. I’m just like, 'This is not real. This is not really happening,'"
The suspected arsonist’s brother, Angel Romero, 17 and his sister, Wendy Romero, 24, are still recovering in hospital, the outlet reported.
Authorities said they didn’t initially suspect arson in the incident. They had also questioned Romero, but didn’t detain him, NBC News reported. However, as the investigation proceeded, authorities began suspecting the fire was intentionally set, all while Romero continued conducting interviews with local media proclaiming his innocence ahead of his arrest on Friday.
"You can lock me up, but you're not going to take me in for me to say this: 'I did it,'" he told KFMB. "I'm not going to say it because I didn't do it."
Wilber Romero also spoke at a funeral service for his family, Fox News reported.
Romero is scheduled to be arraigned on Oct. 22 at 1:30 p.m., according to online court records. He’s being held and isn’t currently eligible for bail.
The San Diego Police Department didn't respond to Oxygen.com's request for comment.
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