A man pulled from a burning apartment on Lakeshore Drive in Belleville on Aug. 5 now faces arson and other charges stemming from an alleged dispute he had with his father.
Authorities say the dispute ended when the suspect, 23-year-old Paul H. Benavidez II, set fire to the dwelling in a possible suicide attempt.
Benavidez was arrested Saturday and charged Monday with one count of aggravated arson, one count of aggravated domestic battery, two counts of domestic battery and one count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. The charges state that during a dispute with his father, Benavidez strangled, kicked and punched his father and also held a knife to his throat before allegedly setting fire to the apartment at 1250 Lakeshore Drive.
Fire investigators wouldn’t say how they determined the fire was set on purpose because the investigation was ongoing, but they said that a 911 dispatcher in contact with responding firefighters reported that Benavidez was still inside the home. The dispatcher then told firefighters that Benavidez’s father said Benavidez set the fire and then locked himself in his room in an attempt to take his own life.
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Firefighters arrived to the scene shortly before 6 p.m. as heavy smoke and fire poured out of the apartment, which was one of four in the building. A neighbor who knew Benavidez was inside the apartment had already broken into the room Benavidez reportedly locked himself inside, and pulled him from the apartment before firefighters arrived. Benavidez was transported to an area hospital with minor injuries. No one else was hurt in the fire.
The apartment where the fire started was destroyed, and a unit below that apartment had severe water damage, displacing the family who lived there. Two other units in the building had some smoke damage but their occupants were not displaced.
Fire investigators did not release additional information, because the case is pending. Belleville police could not immediately be reached for comment regarding their role in the investigation.