Bethesda murder suspect wanted bunker built for fear of North Korea attack, officials say

- A homeowner charged in the death of a man he hired to dig an elaborate tunnel system under his home in Bethesda wanted the bunkers due to the fear of a nuclear attack by North Korea, according to officials.

Daniel Beckwitt, 27, made his first appearance in court on Thursday to face charges of second degree murder and involuntary manslaughter in the death of 21-year-old Askia Khafra.

MORE: Exclusive photos show tunnel inside Bethesda home where deadly fire happened

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According to officials, Khafra died from smoke inhalation and thermal injuries in a Sept. 10 fire at Beckwitt’s house on Danbury Road. Khafra was located in the basement of the home where an extensive system of tunnels and bunkers were located.

Detectives said Khafra was hired to help dig the tunnels underneath the home and was blindfolded every day before getting to the tunnels because Beckwitt did not want him to know where he was working. Officials described the home as having extreme-hoarder conditions and said Khafra would sleep, eat and use the bathroom in the tunnels.

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Beckwitt’s defense said Khafra’s death was an accident and that there was no ill-will or intent in his death. Prosecutors said Khafra was not able to escape the fire because he wasn’t familiar with the layout of the home since he was always blindfolded going into the tunnels.

Beckwitt’s defense said the 27-year-old millionaire was having the underground bunkers built because he feared a nuclear attack by the North Koreans. Beckwitt was to be released on $100,000 bond.

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