David B. Fein, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, today announced that a federal grand jury sitting in New Haven has returned an indictment charging Hector Natal, also known as “Boom” and “Boom Boom,” 26, of New Haven, with committing the March 9, 2011 arson of a multi-family house located at 48-50 Wolcott Street in New Haven. The arson caused the deaths of three residents, 42-year-old Wanda Roberson, her 8-year-old son Quayshawn Roberson, and her 21-year-old niece Jaquetta Roberson. The indictment also charges Natal, together with his father, Hector Morales, 50, of New Haven, with participating in a narcotics distribution business, which led to the arson, and tampering with witnesses in an effort to obstruct the investigation of the arson. Morales is separately charged with altering evidence in order to further obstruct the investigation.
The indictment was returned yesterday. Natal has been detained since June 14, 2011, when he was arrested on federal narcotics charges. Morales was arrested this morning at his residence. He appeared this afternoon before United States Magistrate Judge Holly B. Fitzsimmons in Bridgeport and was ordered detained.
“This indictment alleges that Hector Natal set fire to a home where families and children lived, resulting in the deaths of three innocent people, including two women and a young boy,” said U.S. Attorney Fein. “As alleged, Natal committed this act in part to further his drug trade. His father, Hector Morales, facilitated his son’s narcotics trafficking and, with Natal, attempted to obstruct and undermine the grand jury’s investigation by tampering with witnesses and altering evidence. We thank our law enforcement partners, particularly the FBI, Connecticut State Police, New Haven Police Department, and New Haven Fire Department, who worked tirelessly in this investigation.”
“Violent crime has a devastating impact on our communities and families,” said Kimberly K. Mertz, Special Agent in Charge of the New Haven Division of the FBI. “The Wolcott Street arson in March 2011 resulting in the death of three innocent residents of Fair Haven had such an impact. This indictment reflects the FBI’s commitment to combating violent crime and to pursuing justice with the hope that it will deter and diminish future criminal acts. The tireless efforts of the investigating local, state, and federal agencies, especially the Office of the United States Attorney, are to be commended for their diligence and for bringing those responsible for these crimes to justice.”
“This extensive investigation utilized the expertise of many law enforcement representatives, including the FBI, New Haven Police Department, New Haven Fire Marshal, State Police Major Crime Detectives, and troopers assigned to the Fire and Explosion Investigative Unit, who worked closely together to determine the origin and cause of this triple arson-murder,” said Col. Danny Stebbins of the Connecticut State Police.
“Once news of this fire spread throughout New Haven, the community united in grief,” said Officer David B. Hartman of the New Haven Police Department. “A 42-year-old-mother, her 8-year-old son, and a 21-year-old cousin all lost their lives tragically. When we learned the cause was arson, our grief was compounded with fury. Arsonists commit their crimes without regard for the lives of those affected and the lives of the brave firefighters who have to battle the blaze. News of this indictment is comforting to our community, and the New Haven Police Department is grateful for all of the tireless work by investigators.”
“This was a terrible crime, and the New Haven Fire Department is proud to be working cooperatively with our outstanding partners, including the FBI, Connecticut State Police, New Haven Police Department, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, to investigate this arson and ensure that those responsible are held accountable,” said New Haven Fire Chief Michael Grant.
The indictment alleges that Natal distributed crack cocaine and marijuana to customers in New Haven’s Fair Haven neighborhood. He had multiple sources of supply and sometimes bought powder cocaine and “cooked” it to convert it to crack cocaine. Natal sold these drugs directly to customers and “fronted” drugs to associates who sold the drugs and split the profits with Natal. Morales served as Natal’s driver, facilitating his sales of narcotics and collection of drug proceeds, and held drug proceeds for safe keeping.
According to the indictment, in early March 2011, Natal and a resident of 50 Wolcott Street, the site of the arson, engaged in many telephone calls, including three calls that occurred within hours of the arson. Late on the night of March 8 and into the early morning of March 9, Morales drove Natal in Morales’ blue 1994 Dodge Caravan from 76 Haven Street, where Natal sometimes resided, to the vicinity of 91 Spring Street in New Haven, where Natal collected money owed him from a prior sale of crack cocaine. It is alleged that, at approximately 1:15 a.m. on March 9, 2011, Natal set fire to the two-story residence located at 48-50 Wolcott Street in part as retaliation for failure to pay a drug debt. After the fire was set, Morales drove Natal from the vicinity of the Wolcott Street residence back to 76 Haven Street.
In addition to the narcotics and fatal arson allegations, the indictment charges Natal with a prior arson attempt at 48-50 Wolcott Street in October 2010. Further, both Natal and Morales are charged with witness tampering. Specifically, the indictment alleges that they corruptly suggested to witnesses subpoenaed before the federal grand jury that they testify falsely and give false and misleading information to the grand jury in order to prevent the grand jury from developing evidence regarding the fatal fire and to protect Natal and Morales from being charged criminally. Finally, Morales is charged with altering his blue Dodge Caravan in a further effort to obstruct the investigation.
The indictment charges Natal with three counts of arson resulting in death. If convicted, Natal faces a mandatory minimum term of seven years’ imprisonment and a maximum term of life imprisonment on each count.
The indictment also charges Natal with one count of attempted arson, which carries a mandatory minimum term of five years of imprisonment and a maximum term of 20 years.
Natal and Morales are each charged with conspiring to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute narcotics, which carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years. They are also both charged with one count of conspiracy to tamper with witnesses and one count of witness tampering. Each of these charges carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years.
Finally, Morales is charged with destruction and concealment of evidence, which carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years.
U.S. Attorney Fein stressed that an indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. Charges are only allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
U.S. Attorney Fein stated that there is an ongoing investigation in this matter and encouraged anyone with information that may be relevant to that investigation to call the FBI in Connecticut at 203-777-6311.
This matter is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the New Haven Police Department; the Connecticut State Police Major Crimes Unit; Office of the State Fire Marshal; the New Haven Fire Department-Office of Fire Marshal; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Inspector General.
The case is being prosecuted by First Assistant United States Attorney Deirdre M. Daly and Assistant United States Attorney Michael J. Gustafson, with assistance and support from the New Haven State’s Attorney’s Office.