Ohio man charged with murder 11 years after escaping deadly house fire that killed wife, kids

The fire ravaged the family's Ohio home. Peter Romans was the only person to escape and now he is being charged with the murders of his wife and two children.

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By Elisha Fieldstadt

More than a decade after escaping the fire that burned down his house and killed his wife and two kids, an Ohio man has been charged with their murders.

A grand jury indicted Peter Romans, 59, on two counts of aggravated murder, one count of murder and two counts of aggravated arson for allegedly starting the fire that killed his wife, Billi, their daughter Ami, 16, and their son Caleb, 12, on April 6, 2008.

Peter Allen RomansTri-County Regional Jail

The indictment, filed in the Court of Common Pleas in Madison County on Monday, doesn't detail what evidence has been unearthed by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, which is prosecuting the case, in the more than 11 years since the family's London, Ohio, home burned to the ground.

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Romans is being held at the Tri-County Regional Jail and is scheduled to be arraigned Friday morning.

According to a federal lawsuit Romans brought against Ford Motor Company in 2016, the fire started in a Ford Expedition that was parked next to the home.

Romans was suing Ford for compensatory damages in excess of $100,000, alleging the company knew that the 2000 Expeditions had the potential to catch fire, as previous Ford models had, but only made a "half-hearted effort to recall an admittedly defective product."

A trial in the lawsuit was scheduled to begin in early October, but following Romans' arrest Monday, his attorneys filed a request for the trial to be delayed.

"At this juncture, it is unclear to what extent Plaintiff will be available to attend a civil trial in this case in October," they wrote. "The pending criminal case also raises issues surrounding Plaintiff’s ability to testify in the civil trial. Anything that Plaintiff says or does in this case can and will be used against him in a criminal trial."

Samuel Shamansky, the attorney representing Romans in the criminal case, said he's suspicious about the timing of the charges.

"How curious is this timing, that two months prior to the start of trial, this prosecutor sees fit to revisit the case? I’m not saying that there is a connection because I haven’t had the opportunity to fully explore that possibility," Shamansky told NBC News. "However, it is certainly curious."

He said his client sat for a polygraph test about a year ago, and has always "cooperated fully and completely" with investigators.

"He is wrongly accused," Shamansky said. "He has absolutely nothing to hide and never has. He has complete faith in the process, and is eager for his trial to commence."