Police believe boy set fatal fire at Arlington foster home

ARLINGTON — A fast-moving house fire that killed two boys in November is believed to have been set by another boy living in the Arlington home, officials said Wednesday.

Investigators initially reported that the fire was ignited by a faulty electrical outlet. The boys who died, Tyler Stevens Emory, 10, and Kyler Grant Williams, 11, were among five foster children living with Mark and Susan Lee.

One of the surviving foster children, 11, later said he started the fire, according to a child fatality review conducted by the Children’s Administration, part of the state Department of Social and Health Services. The report does not say whom the boy told.

Snohomish County sheriff’s detectives earlier this month forwarded their investigation to prosecutors in juvenile court.

Detectives believe the fire was set by a child in the home, Snohomish County deputy prosecutor John Stansell said Wednesday. Detectives are recommending that the boy be charged with two counts of first-degree manslaughter and one count of reckless burning, he said.

No charges have been filed. Stansell expects his office to make a decision in about a month. He has asked the lead detective to do some additional investigation before the decision is finalized.

Stansell declined to discuss any other details about the fire or what investigators uncovered. By law, criminal investigations involving juvenile suspects remain secret until charges are filed.

It was unclear Wednesday why fire investigators initially believed the fire was caused by an electrical outlet. The county fire marshal’s office declined to comment about the case.

Mark Lee, the foster father, told a state social worker that he had no reason to be suspicious of the boy, according to the fatality review. The Lees never saw him play with matches or lighters prior to the deadly blaze and never suspected him of playing with fire, the review team wrote.

The boy had no known history of starting fires and didn’t appear interested in fire, the review team reported.

A fatality review is conducted when a child, who is under state care or receiving state services, dies unexpectedly. The state must report its finding within six months of the child’s death.

The reports about Tyler and Kyler were finished May 15, DSHS spokeswoman Sherry Hill said. The results were posted online June 25.

The child fatality review found that communication and coordination between all of the different agencies involved with the boys and families was inadequate, which potentially affected timely provision of services. The team recommended that in the future one person should be designated as a coordinator to help provide services more effectively.

In addition to the fatality review, the incident was investigated for any potential child abuse and license violations. That examination was conducted by the Division of Licensed Resources, an arm of the DSHS.

“There was no negligence on the part of the foster parents,” said Sharon Gilbert, deputy director of field operations for the Children’s Administration.

The Lees were up to date on all training required by foster parents and had regularly practiced fire evacuation plans with the children. They had done one drill within two months of the fire, the review found.

The Lees have been longtime foster parents.

Susan Lee is licensed in foster care by the state and Compass Health, which provides services to foster children. She has worked with special-needs children for the past 10 years, the family said in November.

State officials declined to comment on whether the boy who said he started the fire remains with the Lees or has received any special counseling.

In general, all the surviving children, as well as the deceased boys’ biological parents and the Lees, have been offered counseling as necessary, said Yen Lawlor, the acting regional area administrator for the Children’s Administration.

The two-alarm blaze started just before 11 p.m. Nov. 22. The Lees’ adult daughter, who was home from college, heard a smoke detector and began waking up children and moving them out of the house, Mark Lee said. There were 10 people in the house: the Lees, two other adults and six children, including Tyler and Kyler.

The boys’ rooms were directly above each other in the northwest corner of the house. They were unable to escape. Both died of asphyxiation.

Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463, hefley@heraldnet.com.

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