(FOX) — A San Diego man was arrested Friday for allegedly starting a suspicious house fire that killed his parents, sister and injured two siblings last weekend — despite initially claiming he tried to save his family.
Wilber Romero, 26, faced homicide and arson charges, Fox 5 reported.
The fire ignited just before 4:30 a.m. on Oct. 13, tearing through their small home in Logan Heights with at least five members of the Romero family still inside.
Wilber’s father, Jose Antonio Romero, 44, turned up dead inside the home.
His mother, Nicolasa Mayo, 46, died in the hospital, as did his sister, Iris “Krystal” Romero, 21 — following a heroic attempt to use her body as a human shield — to protect her younger brother, 17-year-old Angel Romero, from being burnt, relative Tania Flores told KNSD.
Iris had become brain dead and was pronounced dead on Wednesday night, police told the outlet.
Angel and his sister, Wendy Romero, 24, are expected to recover from their injuries. Wendy had tried so hard to escape that she broke her fingers beating on the door, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.
Wilber reportedly escaped unhurt.
He told KGTV he awoke to find his bed on fire and tried yelling at his family to get them out of the burning home.
“My dogs were jumping on me, trying to wake me up. I woke up. When I woke up, my bed was on fire. I jumped out of bed and started screaming the house is on fire,” Romero told the outlet.
Later, in an interview with KFMB, Wilber continued to deny he had anything to do with the fire.
“You can lock me up, but you’re not going to take me in for me to say this: ‘I did it,'” he said. “I’m not going to say it because I didn’t do it.”
Wilber was questioned by police after the fire, but they let him go before his eventual arrest, KNSD added. Neighbors say they saw Wilber running down the street screaming when they recalled the heartbreaking scene.
“I thought it was like a scary movie. I thought it was a nightmare, honestly. I’m just like, ‘This is not real. This is not really happening,'” Jamie Felix, a family friend living next door, said.
A nearby church had a vigil on Tuesday to support the family, while neighbors raised money for the funeral by holding a car wash and a couple of fundraisers.
Wilber spoke at the funeral, thanking everyone for their thoughts and prayers.
He was booked into the county jail and expected to make his first court appearance on Oct. 22.