Michigan dad charged with manslaughter for fire that killed wife and 3 sons months after he said he'd burn her

A Michigan father was charged after he started a fire in a burn pit very close to his family's house

                            Michigan dad charged with manslaughter for fire that killed wife and 3 sons months after he said he'd burn her
Robert Scales (Kent County Correctional Facility)

GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN: A woman and her three children died in the family’s Southeast Grand Rapids house in February this year after a Michigan man had started a fire in a burn pit very close to his family's house. The fire spread and killed the man's wife and three sons, the police have revealed. 

38-year-old Robert Scales is looking at four counts of involuntary manslaughter for the fire which took place in his home. The fire took the lives of 35-year-old Wanedia Scales, Xavier Woldeab, 15, Elijah Scales, 10, and Robert Scales Jr, 14, WOOD-TV reveals. The house fire at 2902 Dawes Ave. SE happened at about 12.30 am on February 5 and autopsies showed the woman and children died of “asphyxia by products of combustion.” Scales himself surrendered to the police late last week. 

Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker shared that the four counts of involuntary manslaughter carry a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. He said that there was insufficient evidence for a murder charge. Becker revealed, "We’re charging him with gross negligence. We did not charge a homicide because there was no evidence that this was an intentional act. We’re fully aware of the past history."

At the time of the fire, Scales claimed he was at work but did admit to starting a fire in a burn pit just six feet away from the home in the late afternoon hours of February 4. Scales was running a  junk-hauling operation. A witness visiting Wanedia Scales told investigators that Scales was still at the fire pit about 7 pm. According to fire investigators, the blaze had managed to spread to the home which had just a mattress placed between it and the fire pit. Sclaes's business partner shared with the investigators that he had been with Scales when he was burning leaves in the burn pit. When he had left the home at around 7 pm on February 4, his business partner said he did not recall seeing any mattress near the fire pit, an affidavit of probable cause revealed. The police had written, "He stated that he told Robert he needed to get a bigger pit and move it away from the house."

As reported by MLive, the burn pit was only six feet from the house and was around eight feet from a detached garage. Relatives spoke to WOOD-TV and said that they are of the opinion Scales had purposely set the blaze and are looking to get additional charges filed in the fatal fire and think it has something to do with a domestic dispute. 

Around five months before the fire had taken place, Wanedia had tried to get a personal protection order against her husband Scales and had claimed that he had threatened to "burn the house down" with her inside it. Wanedia had also accused Scales of vandalizing and destroying their home besides threatening to really hurt her. In her request, Wanedia wrote at the time, "I am begging you. I am scared for my life. I don’t know what else to do. I need help please."

The request, however, was not approved.

According to WGN9, family members are happy with the news of the arrest but say that they are not satisfied with the charges. An aunt who was only wanted to be identified by her first name, Laverne, said, "It was just tears of joy for me." She said that investigators had contacted her on June 18 in order to inform her of the charges and notify her that Scales had turned himself in. "I just wasn’t going to rest until I heard something. Me knowing that they got him on some charges is good, but it’s not good enough. It’s not involuntary. It’s murder. What he threatened to do to her — it played out," she shared. 

Scales said he was devastated by the loss of his family but said he knew other plans were in place from a higher power. Speaking to MLive he had said: “God knows what we know not. There will never be complete answers to any of this.”

“I know God got something else for me,” he said. Scales was arrested and booked into the Kent County jail, then released on bond, jail records show. 

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