ST. GEORGE – A man who was suspected of starting a Phoenix home on fire last week with a 26-year-old woman and her two young children inside was found dead in Las Vegas Tuesday and will be buried in St. George on Thursday.
At around 5:30 a.m. June 22, Phoenix Police officers were called to a residence in the area of 1800 E. Dunbar Drive in Phoenix in response to a burglary, the Phoenix Police Department said in a press statement. Upon arrival, two officers saw that a window to the front of the home had been broken. When officers opened the front door to the home, they saw the front of the home was fully engulfed in fire.
Officers could not enter the home from the front, so they went to the driveway on the side of the house where they saw a 26-year-old woman and her 2- and 6-year-old children on a second floor balcony of the home, the Police Department said. The house was quickly filling with smoke and flames.
“Thinking quickly, the officers backed their SUV patrol vehicle into the driveway and under the balcony,” the Police Department said in the statement. “The officers then first had the mother drop the children to them and then assisted the mother as she climbed from the balcony and onto the vehicle.”
The family was quickly moved to safety as the Phoenix Fire Department extinguished the fire.
It wasn’t long before the Phoenix Fire and Arson investigators determined the fire to be suspicious and were working closely with Phoenix Police detectives to identify a suspect and motive for the attack on the family.
Phoenix police held a news conference Tuesday morning to announce they had identified 32-year-old Nathaniel Astle as the suspect in the case.
“We believe that the actual target of the arson is a female whom he is infatuated with and may have had some sort of dating relationship with in the past,” Phoenix Police Sgt. Trent Crump said during the news conference.
Astle was identified after police learned that a convertible black sports car registered to him was seen in the neighborhood before and after the fire began.
Astle was targeting a woman with whom he had been infatuated and tried to harm in the past, Crump said, adding that Astle believed the woman might live at the home; however, it had been rented by another family.
Concerned for his safety, Astle’s parents reported him missing to police Tuesday, Crump said. Astle’s parents also provided police with their son’s journal in which he expressed his intent to harm the unnamed woman.
Several hours later, the Las Vegas Police Department contacted Phoenix police with the news that Astle had been found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, Crump said.
Detectives are currently working with Las Vegas authorities to further investigate the incident.
Friends and family of Astle will be holding a candlelight vigil on his behalf Friday at 8 p.m. at the Layton Commons Park, 437 N. Wasatch Drive in Layton.
Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.
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