A bizarre home in suburban Maryland — with hundreds of feet of tunnels running at least 20 feet below the surface — is now the center of a murder investigation.
Daniel Beckwitt, 27, allegedly hired 21-year-old Askia Khafra to help him dig the tunnels. During a fire last September, rescuers discovered Khafra’s naked, charred body in Beckwitt’s basement. Officials said he died of smoke inhalation.
Cops charged Beckwitt with second-degree “depraved heart” murder last Friday, saying he showed “extreme disregard” for the 21-year-old’s life, according to an arrest report obtained by Oxygen.com.
Beckwitt's reason for digging the strange tunnels remains a mystery. Investigators described the house as a hoarding nightmare, with “immense piles of garbage” and “narrow, maze-like pathways,” in the arrest report. The strange network of tunnels stretched out beneath city streets, authorities said.
Beckwitt allegedly hired Khafra multiple times to work on his tunnel system. On each occasion, he insisted Khafra wear “blackout glasses” to prevent Khafra from knowing the location of the house. Beckwitt would walk him into the basement before removing the glasses each time, according to the police report.
Khafra would enter the network of tunnels from a door in the floor of the basement to begin his work. The entrance shaft dropped down 20 ft. to horizontal tunnels that stretched out 200 ft. in length, according to the police report.
“The substantial electrical needs” of the tunnel system were powered by “a haphazard daisy-chain of extension cords and plug extenders,” according to the report.
Cops say Beckwitt was aware of an increased likelihood of fire in the hours leading up to the blaze.
The hoarding conditions inside the home made it more difficult for Khafra to flee during the blaze, according to the report, which argues Beckwitt acted with “depraved indifference to human life.”
The house is owned by Beckwitt’s father, according to WTOP-FM in Washington D.C.
Beckwitt was set to have a video conference bond hearing Thursday.
[Photo: Montgomery County Police Department]