BETHESDA, MD — A 27-year-old millionaire has been charged with murder in connection with the death of a 21-year-old man he allegedly hired to build a secret labyrinth of underground tunnels beneath his home in a posh suburb of Washington, D.C.
Maryland prosecutors allege that Daniel Beckwitt, a stock trader whom they called a “paranoid computer hacker,” endangered the life of Askia Khafra, 21.
Khafra was killed in a house fire while helping Beckwitt dig the tunnels. Prosecutors claim Beckwitt designed the tunnels in case he needed to take shelter in case of a nuclear attack. They also stated that Beckwitt was particularly afraid of a potential conflict with North Korea.
According to Khafra’s father, Dia Khafra, his son met Beckwitt online and agreed to help him with the job in exchange for Beckwitt’s investments in an internet company Askia was launching.
On September 10, 2017, neighbors were shocked when they heard the screams and saw smoke pouring from the house.
Investigators found Khafra’s charred body in the basement of Beckwitt’s home — along with a hole in the concrete floor and tunnels that branched out roughly 200 feet in length, according to MSN.
Beckwitt was arrested in May. His lawyer has stated that Khafra’s death a tragic accident — but not a crime.
According to a police report, Beckwitt went to great lengths to conceal the exact nature of the task Khafra would be performing. This allegedly including renting a car to pick Khafra up, making him wear “blackout glasses,” and driving him around before taking him to the job site.
Beckwitt lived alone in “extreme hoarder conditions” and the junk and trash — combined with the lights and air-circulation system connected to a “haphazard daisy chain” of power strips — created a fire risk, the prosecutor said.
Hours before the fire, Khafra texted Beckwitt to warn him it smelled like smoke in the tunnels. But a court heard that Beckwitt ignored signs of danger.
Much of Beckwitt’s life remains a mystery. Dia Khafra said that Beckwitt told him that he made his money “off of Bitcoins.”
When Beckwitt was a student at the University of Illinois in 2013, he was arrested on charges including computer fraud and sentenced to two years of probation, according to online court records.
County officials have sued Beckwitt over his property’s condition and claimed that it is unsafe. The home has now been boarded up.
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Read more: MSN
Main photo: Daniel Beckwitt [Montgomery County Police Department]