The owners of a Rose Park home where three children were killed last week said the father of one of the children had threatened to destroy the house.
But police say they don't give the allegation much weight. They are continuing to look for the person who poured a flammable liquid outside and inside the home and started the fire early Thursday.Samuel Ortega purchased the home at 1045 N. Oakley St. from Mark and Karen Wilson nine months ago but fell behind on some of the payments. The Wilsons had served at least one eviction notice in the past on the Ortegas, Karen Wilson said.
She told a Salt Lake County deputy sheriff later Thursday that she and Ortega had gotten into an argument and that Ortega had threatened to destroy the house, a sheriff's report says.
The woman also told the deputy she felt Ortega was going to "come after her house also," according to the report.
When contacted by the Deseret News, Wilson refused to comment about the report. "I don't want to say anything that would hurt the investigation or cause harm to anyone," she said.
Salt Lake Police detectives, who are investigating the incident as a triple homicide, questioned Ortega all day Saturday at the Salt Lake Public Safety Building. However, they are not calling Ortega a suspect.
"We haven't eliminated anybody at this point," said Salt Lake Police Lt. Jim Bell.
At this point, detectives believe the threats about destroying the house were the kind of threats people often make during arguments but don't always mean, Bell said.
"There's basically no substance to that as far as a motive. It's one of those landlord-tenant situations, but we're looking into it," he said. "I don't think there's a lot of merit to it."
Bell said detectives still have many people to interview concerning the incident and are not yet at a point where they can narrow the investigation down to one or two suspects. The morning of the fire, Ortega 4 told police he believes a "psychotic" acquaintance is responsible for starting the fire that killed his son Christian Ortega, 13; Andrew Lawrence, 9; and Creighton Lawrence, 11. A fourth victim, June Ortega, 7, remained in critical condition Monday at LDS Hospital.
Ortega said the psychotic person previously had threatened to kill him and his family, a police report says. He said he had seen the per son the day before in a van that matched the description of a suspect vehicle seen leaving the area during the fire. Two neighbors told police a loud-sounding van or truck sped from the area as the first fire engine arrived.