Fire That Killed 4 Family Members Ruled 3 Homicides, 1 Suicide

Authorities ruled the deaths of four family members in a fire set to a Pennsylvania apartment last week three homicides and a suicide, a coroner said Tuesday.

Jafar Afshar, 67, used accelerants inside the Steelton home above the Raja's Quick Pick Mart on South Front Street on Friday, setting it on fire, Dauphin County Coroner Graham Hetrick told reporters.

Jafar Afshar, his son Saeed Afshar, 36, and his two grandchildren, an 8-year-old boy and 5-year-old girl died in the fire. Jafar Afshar's death was ruled a suicide, and the deaths of his family members were ruled homicides, Hetrick said.

"I think this happened quickly, I think there was a large amount of smoke very shortly; if those individuals were asleep they could have very easily been unconscious or incoherent" due to carbon monoxide, Hetrick said.

The names of the children were not released at the press conference.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

Firetruck file image
The deaths of four family members in a fire on Friday set to a Pennsylvania apartment were ruled three homicides and a suicide, Dauphin County Coroner Graham Hetrick announced. Although the coroner said there were "some indications of abnormal behavior" by Jafar Afshar, he declined to discuss a possible motive. Getty Images

All four died of thermal burns and smoke inhalation. The homicide victims appear to have been sleeping and were likely overcome by fumes before their deaths; the grandfather had more thermal burns than the others, he said.

Hetrick said there were "some indications of abnormal behavior" on the part of the older man but declined to discuss a possible motive.

"What was in his mind when he decided to eliminate the family that he has been with, I don't know," he said.

Authorities were still trying to determine the exact accelerant used, he said. There was no indication that anyone in the home tried to escape after the fire began, he said.

Neighbors and people passing by first reported the blaze at about 6 a.m. Friday in the two-story brick building, which formerly served as a tavern.

Saeed Afshar had served as the key prosecution witness in a 2018 murder trial in Dauphin County that resulted in a second-degree murder conviction and a life sentence, PennLive.com reported.

Dozens of community members had gathered Sunday at Mohn Park to remember those who died, WHTM-TV said.

"They are part of our town and part of our heart and that just goes to show there are many people grieving about this," Mayor Maria Romano Marcinko said.

Steelton is about 4 miles (6.4 kilometers) south of Harrisburg along the Susquehanna River.