Fatal Connecticut fire ruled arson, may be triple homicide, say New Haven police

New Haven Fatal Fire Ruled Arson, Being Investigated Triple homicide
New Haven house where deadly fire occurred, Wednesday, March 9, 2011
CBS affiliate WFSB

(CBS/WFSB/AP) NEW HAVEN, Conn. - An overnight fire that engulfed a multi-family Connecticut home and claimed the lives of three relatives is being investigating as a triple homicide, city officials said Wednesday.

New Haven Mayor John DeStefano said state arson specialists are teaming up with local fire officials to investigate the deaths of 42-year-old Wanda Roberson, her 8-year-old son Quayshawn, a second grader, and her 18-year-old niece Jaquitta Roberson.

The fatal fire was ruled arson after investigators found traces of an accelerant inside the home, reports CBS affiliate WFSB.

The fire was reported before 2 a.m. Wednesday in the city's Fair Haven section, New Haven Fire Chief Michael Grand said.

Officials say the victims were found in a third-floor bedroom in the multi-family home and died as a result of smoke inhalation.

In addition to the three deaths, eight other people were injured in the blaze which began in the second story stairwell and quickly tore through the home.

Some of the injured were rescued by firefighters while some were forced to jump as flames cornered them on the second-floor porch.

A neighbor who identified herself as Roberson's cousin told New England Cable News that she heard disturbing details of the fire when she talked with the surviving residents.

"They just said everything happened so fast that it was crazy," she said. "They didn't know which way to go. When they touched a door knob, it was hot. They didn't know where to go."

Police told WFSB that they are talking to several suspects, including the building's landlord, Lili Khorsdandi, who owns four other buildings in the area and is behind in taxes on all of them and in foreclosure on one.

Lt. John Velleca said they are also looking for a dark-colored minivan which was seen leaving the house at the time of the fire.