A New Haven man accused of arson and the deaths of three people in the fire plead not guilty Thursday, July 26, in federal court to seven criminal charges, according to an article in the New Haven Register.

Twenty-six-year-old Hector Natal was accused of setting fire to a two-story house at 48-50 Wolcott Street. The blaze broke out at about 1:15 a.m., March 9, 2011.

Prosecutors claim the fire was set “in part as retaliation for failure to pay a drug debt.” Investigators say an accelerant was spilled on a staircase.

If Natal is found guilty of the arson-related deaths, he could be in prison for the rest of his life, First Assistant U.S. Deirdre Daly said. U.S. Magistrate Judge Joan Margolis presided over the trial.

The three people who were trapped on the third floor of the flaming building and died were Wanda Roberson, 41, her son, Quayshawn Roberson, and her niece Jaquetta Roberson. More than one family lived in the house. Eleven others, some of whom leapt out of windows, also were injured.

Natal is charged with three counts of arson causing death, conspiracy to distribute and to possess with the intent to distribute illegal drugs; attempted arson, witness tampering, and conspiracy to tamper with witnesses. Prosecutors also alleged Natal was a crack cocaine and marijuana dealer.

Prosecutors accused Natal’s father, Hector Morales, 50, in the incident. Morales, who is indicted as the driver, has been charged with narcotics conspiracy, witness tampering, and destruction of and concealing evidence.

If found guilty of the narcotics charge alone, Natal could be sentenced to 20 years in prison and fined $1 million.

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