Police: Death ruled homicide after grass fire
Austin police have opened a homicide investigation after a man’s body was found Sunday in the remains of a grass fire in South Austin, officials said Tuesday.
The body of 66-year-old Harold Maurice Parham was found after firefighters extinguished a blaze at a homeless camp along Interstate 35, police officials said.
Police said the Austin Fire Department was called to the fire along I-35 near William Cannon Drive at around 6:21 p.m. and found the man dead in the blaze.
Parham was identified as the victim by his fingerprints.
An autopsy determined he had died as a result of trauma to his body, and the medical examiner has ruled his death a homicide, officials said.
Sgt. Eric De Los Santos would not elaborate on Parham’s injuries and said only that he had a “penetrating wound.”
De Los Santos said Parham was homeless and he does believe he and the suspect knew one another.
The fire that occurred Sunday evening was not the first in the area that day, according to police officials. Another fire that sparked about eight hours earlier was determined to have been intentionally set.
Austin fire investigators said they were called at 10:15 a.m. to a site about 100 yards from the second fire, at a separate homeless camp.
Richard Edwin Wroblewski, 34, has been charged with arson in that case.
A witness told investigators that Wroblewski had come to the camp looking for a woman that stole his bike, court documents say. She said she asked the man to leave, then heard popping from inside her tent and discovered the fire, the documents say.
A separate witness told investigators she had seen three men running out of the woods in the same area that morning amid a column of smoke, all carrying propane tanks, including one that matched Wroblewski’s description, the documents say.
Wroblewski was arrested and booked into the Travis County Jail on arson and theft charges on Monday and is being held on $50,000 bail, records show.
Police officials say Wroblewski could be involved in the homicide but they aren’t ruling out other suspects.
“That person is obviously a person of interest,” De Los Santos said. “We are not going to turn out backs to any other potential.”
Police are asking anyone with information to call the homicide tip line at 512-477-3588 or Crime Stoppers at 512-472-8477. A $1,000 reward is being offered. All tips are anonymous.
— Mary Huber, American-Statesman
Man jabbed with machete during robbery, police say
Austin police have accused a man of using a machete to jab a good Samaritan who was trying to stop a robbery in South Austin earlier this month, court documents say.
Ben Roy Jones, 43, faces a charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, according to an arrest affidavit. Penalties for the charge include two to 20 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.
Police said a man was robbed Aug. 7 at the Texaco gas station at 539 W. Oltorf St. near the intersection with South First Street.
After the robbery, the man walked to his nearby apartment, grabbed a machete and headed back to the Texaco, court documents say.
Jones waited for the man to return to the apartment complex, and proceeded to take the man’s machete before he and two others assaulted and robbed the man a second time, court documents say.
A passerby who saw what was happening tried to interfere, the affidavit says. Jones told the passerby — called “Samuel” by police in the affidavit — to back off, the court documents say.
“Ben Jones then jabbed Samuel in his side with the machete. Samuel felt that if he did not leave, that he would be killed,” police said.
“Ben Jones then threatened Samuel, saying that if Samuel didn’t go back inside the apartment he would cut Samuel in front of his children,” the affidavit said.
Jones was not in the Travis County Jail on Wednesday, online records show, but his bail has been set at $50,000.
— Kelsey Bradshaw, American-Statesman