Man set stepson on fire in ‘barbaric’ arson-homicide

A man accused of intentionally setting his stepson on fire has been charged with his murder, Des Moines police said Wednesday.

Des Moines police Sgt. Paul Parizek said in a news release that 41-year-old Randy Miles Jr. of Des Moines has been charged with first-degree murder and arson in the death of 26-year-old Christopher Lenhart, also of Des Moines.

Officers were sent around 1:30 p.m. Friday to the 1400 block of Henderson Avenue on reports of a fire. When authorities arrived, they found two cars on fire and Lenhart with severe third-degree burns that covered about 90 percent of his body.

“It doesn’t get much more barbaric than setting someone on fire,” Parizek said.

A neighbor captured dramatic cellphone video showing flames shooting from a red car that’s now charred and destroyed moments after police said Miles set his stepson on fire.

“When officers and firefighters arrived, Mr. Lenhart was outside the car,” Parizek said. “There were some bystanders that had stepped in. One of them actually brought a fire extinguisher over.”

Investigators did not elaborate on how Miles set the fire, but said an argument led to the arson that killed Lenhart.

“The windows had been broken out of one of those vehicles as part of this dispute that ran for a period of over a couple hours at least,” Parizek said.

Neighbors also told KCCI they heard constant fighting between the stepfather and son, leading them to believe they had a very violent relationship.

“I’m not surprised,” said neighbor Henry Gudiel, who told his daughters to stay away from the apartment building next door. “I knew something was going to happen.”

Des Moines Fire Department medics took Lenhart to a specialized burn treatment center at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City, where he died Sunday as a result of his wounds.

Lenhart’s death marks the 23rd homicide in Des Moines so far this year, compared with just 13 homicides in all of 2016.

After the attack, Miles fled to Grand Forks, North Dakota, where Des Moines police received a tip of his location and sent out an alert. He was shortly apprehended by North Dakota authorities after Parizek said a taxi driver recognized Miles.

“Anytime you think of a caregiver or someone close to a relative doing something like this, it always shocks our conscience,” Parizek said.

It was unclear whether Miles yet had an attorney to fight extradition. If so, the process would take longer,…

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