Arson, Murder, Assault Charges for Resident of Wilmington Rowhome

Filed in Delaware by on September 29, 2016

I’ll let the Delaware Online story speak for itself, because I don’t know what else to say. This is just so sad all the way around. I know I speak for the entire Delaware Liberal community when I say our condolences, thoughts, and prayers are with the families of Lt. Christopher Leach and Senior Firefighter Jerry Fickes, as our collective hope and encouragement for continued strength and recovery is with Ardythe Hope and Brad Speakman.

A 27-year-old woman who lived at the Canby Park rowhome that went up in flames Saturday morning, killing two Wilmington firefighters, told police she was drunk and on anxiety medication when she became angry and set fire to the basement of the home, according to court documents obtained by The News Journal.

Beatriz Fana-Ruiz is charged with two counts of first-degree murder, one count of first-degree arson, four counts of second-degree assault in the injuries of other firefighters involved and seven counts of reckless endangerment, according to the State Fire Marshal’s Office.

A first-degree murder charge was applicable for Fana-Ruiz due to Delaware law that protects first responders who lose their lives while serving due to the “reckless behavior” of an individual.

The law originally only covered on-duty police officers, corrections employees and firefighters but was extended in 2009 to cover paramedics, EMTs, fire marshals and fire police officers after the death of Michelle Smith, a Delaware City firefighter who was sideswiped by a passing car and killed along U.S. 13.

Fana-Ruiz is the stepdaughter of Missy Napier, who lived in the home with her five children, according to state officials.

The fire ravaged the rowhome and left three firefighters trapped in the basement of the house when the first floor collapsed. Lt. Christopher Leach and Senior Firefighter Jerry Fickes did not survive.

Senior Firefighter Ardythe Hope and Brad Speakman remain hospitalized at Crozer-Chester Medical Center in Pennsylvania. Hope remains in critical but stable condition and Speakman has been upgraded to stable condition. A photo of him posted Wednesday shows him standing in the hospital smiling with bandages on his hands, legs and head.

Three other firefighters also sustained injuries in the fire and were treated and released shortly after the blaze.

A total of seven people were inside the home when the fire broke out, according to court documents. It’s unclear what caused Fana-Ruiz to become angry, as she first told investigators she couldn’t remember anything after she went down into the basement, according to court documents.

In a later interview, she admitted to becoming angry and going downstairs to set the blaze. Investigators determined she ignited flammable or combustible material with an open flame, causing about $200,000 in damages to the home, according to court documents. Eight people were living there at the time of the fire.

Fana-Ruiz was arraigned and is being held on $3 million cash bail.

Up until now, investigators released no information about the cause of the deadly blaze. The Wilmington Fire Department turned over the investigation to the State Fire Marshal’s Office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives because of the loss of two of its members.

Services for Leach and Fickes will begin Thursday night with a viewing for Fickes at Grace Lutheran Church along Graves Road in Hockessin. The viewing will last from 5 to 8 p.m. A second viewing is scheduled for Friday from 2 to 4 p.m. for family, friends and members of the Wilmington Fire Department. A funeral service will follow; burial is private.


About the Author ()

A dad, husband, and public education supporter. Small tent progressive/liberal. Christina School District Citizen's Budget Oversight Committee member, who knows a bit about a lot when it comes to the convoluted mess that is education funding in the State of Delaware.

Comments (15)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Jason330 says:

    It sucks.

    Of course condolences go out the families of Lt. Christopher Leach and Senior Firefighter Jerry Fiches, but our system seems out to punish people like Beatriz Fana-Ruiz with exceptional ruthlessness. She didn’t set the fire in order to kill firefighters, and if she had a lot of money, that would be a more salient fact in whatever unfolds from here out.

  2. Delaware Dem says:

    It’s called Felony Murder. It means if you intend to commit a felony like arson, and in the course of committing it, someone dies as a result of your felony, then you are charged with first degree murder. She intended to commit arson. The fire did not start by accident. She intentionally started it and left it unattended. She knew that there were people sleeping upstairs. She knew or should have know that firefighters would respond. It does not matter that she was angry. It does not matter that she did not specifically intend to kill anyone. It matters that she intended to start a fire, and it matters that people died and were injured as a direct result.

    I think the charges are fully appropriate and I hope she is convicted. Who the fuck starts a fire in the middle of the night with your family sleeping above? A fucking sociopathic killer, that’s who.

  3. Delaware Dem says:

    That all said, I find it highly likely that she will plead guilty to manslaughter charges.

  4. jason330 says:

    C’mon man. You know as well as anyone that she wouldn’t have even been interviewed without a lawyer on hand if she had money.

  5. Delaware Dem says:


    We don’t know yet what the facts are surrounding her interrogation and/or arrest. Was she arrested first? How did the investigation come about? I assume the investigation from the ATF or the Fire Marshall concluded very easily it was arson and it was an inside job, so thus the suspects would be in the family. Did she confess to someone other than authorities first? There is a whole host of questions before we can answer your right to counsel question. If she was arrested and then interrogated, then Miranda warnings were given. If they weren’t, then anything she said in the subsequent investigation is out. If she knowingly waived them, and thus waived a right to counsel and made a statement anyway, that is on her and her statements are admissible.

  6. Jason330 says:

    Other Anon- If you don’t think class plays a part in the way people are treated In the criminal justice system, you are too stupid to keep commenting here

  7. the other anonymous says:

    Jason just stirring the pot, again

  8. jason330 says:

    Sounds good counselor. But I’ve seen how this goes down.

  9. jason330 says:

    If noticing that we are pushing poor people to the breaking point then throwing the book at them when they break is stirring the pot, I guess I am.

  10. Jason330 says:

    I’m going to leave it there because it feels like I’m being angled into not being on the side of firefighters. I am on the side of firefighters but I also see that our system works one way for people with money, and a different way for people without it.

  11. the other anonymous says:

    Jason, REALLY. To firefighters lost their lives and now it’s societies fault?
    You’re an idiot!!

  12. Jason330 says:

    Trolling for the sake of trolling will get you out of here. Pretty quickly too.

  13. ex-anonymous says:

    other anonymous: you are an embarrassment to the whole anonymous family.

  14. Prop Joe says:

    How do you use the proper “you’re”, but screw up “To, Too, Two”… I thought we were past these kinds of mistakes, TOA.

  15. AQC says:

    While heartbroken for the firefighters and their families, I would like to know what, if any, mental health treatment this woman was receiving.