A stock trader is facing trial following the death of a 21-year-old man who was digging secret tunnels under his home.
Daniel Beckwitt has been charged with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter after a fire broke out underneath his home – killing Askia Khafra.
Beckwitt and Mr Khafra had been digging secret tunnels under the property in Bethesda, Maryland, in September last year.
Prosecutors have claimed the 27-year-old recklessly endangered Mr Khafra’s life, but Beckwitt’s lawyer has described his death as a tragic accident, not a crime.
Mr Khafra’s parents have said they are dreading the first anniversary of his death on Monday.
Dia and Claudia Khafra had tried to persuade their son to stay away from Beckwitt’s home.
Mr Khafra told the Washington Post that the two men had met on social media, and Beckwitt had promised to invest thousands of dollars into his son’s start-up idea “Equity Shark”.
Prosecutors say the investment helped Beckwitt persuade Mr Khafra to help, but he would go to extreme lengths to make sure the younger man did not know where he was going.
It is alleged he picked him up in a rental car, drove him around with blacked-out glasses on, and that Mr Khafra occasionally ate, slept and went to the toilet in the tunnels.
Robert Bonsib, Beckwitt’s attorney, told the judge in a previous hearing that his client was an “unusual individual”, adding: “It was his project to create a secure bunker because of his concern about international tensions, North Korea, intercontinental ballistic missiles.”
The tunnels started from a 20ft (6m) drop from his basement, and sprawled for 200ft (60m), according to police.