A pair of evicted tenants made deadly threats towards the homeowners they lived with, only a week before an arson fire of the home killed the property owners’ two young children, according to investigators.
Police can confirm that it was arson that was behind the fire that killed six-year-old Xavier and eight-year-old Rose in Mount Vernon, Washington early Saturday morning, and are detaining the two former tenants for further investigation.
‘I will sue you or burn your house down’, Hughes threatened the homeowners on July 8, seven days before a huge fire actually destroyed the house, and the two lives in it, according to court filings on Monday.
Investigators’ suspicions of Hughes and Chism were disclosed on Monday, when the pair showed up in court. Both deny the accusations against them, according to the Skagit County Public Defender’s Office. Though it is clear that Hughes has a history of this, as she was previously found guilty of second-degree arson in 2014.
In that particular incident, investigators claimed in court documents:
‘She stated she set her ex-boyfriend’s clothes on fire in a laundry basket. She stated she was mad at him for cheating on her. I later learned from the [police]report that there were people in the home when she set this fire.’
After living as renters with Bachofer and Starr for an unclear amount of time, a dispute arose about the terms of a lease renewal, Hughes’ social media posts indicate. The dispute grew to include disagreements over payments to Chism from Bachofer, who employed the tenant for work on the rural property, the posts indicate.
Bachofer had the man and woman evicted and they moved out on July 11, police said. Four days later, around 2am on Saturday, another renter in the house, Jacob Motz, awoke to the sounds of crackling fire and the smell of smoke, police said.
Fire crews responded and found the house engulfed in flames when they arrived. Starr told a neighbor that she’d taken the children to a second story window to try to escape, but fell out of the window while pushing the window screen out.
‘She was head-to-toe, [covered]in black soot,’ Bob Eaton told KTVL. ‘She was cut up really quite badly and burned. She was really in tough shape.’
Bachofer and Motz also escaped from the house.
Cops started on their search for Hughes and Chism, and eventually found the pair asleep in a tent in the backyard of a home just 10 miles away from the fire at 6.30 am on Saturday. The pair claimed that they had been sleeping there undisturbed since midnight and denied having anything to do with the fire.
Bachofer and Starr are now struggling to recover from ‘burns and severe lung damage’, family friend Tamara Carlson wrote on a GoFundMe entreaty for the couple.
‘They’ve lost everything and will be facing unimaginable grief, medical recovery, medical bills and the rebuilding of their lives.’
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