Deputies with the Yamhill County Sheriff's Office are holding a 14-year-old boy on murder charges after they say he set fire to his grandparent's home early Wednesday morning.
Fire crews rushed to the home in the 38000 block of Southwest Tenbush Lane in rural Willamina just after 2:30 a.m. and found Nicholas J.D. Aulig's 79-year-old grandpa, Dieter H. Aulig, dead inside.
His grandmother, Theresa Aulig, suffered non-life-threatening burns to her upper body, the sheriff's office said.
Investigators combed through the rubble and found evidence of fire accelerant in the home.
The sheriff's office, Oregon State Police, the Oregon State Fire Marshal and other Yamhill County Fire personnel launched a criminal investigation and searched the property for Nicholas but couldn't find him.
Neighbors said they have no idea why the 14-year-old would set fire to his own home.
"The flames were shooting maybe 60 or 70 feet in the air and the whole building was engulfed," Ron Bork, a neighbor, said.
"I saw Theresa, the wife, standing in the field in her bathrobe and bunny slippers," he added.
Bork said he was in disbelief. He said his neighbors raised Nicholas as their son.
"Her and Dieter adopted Nicholas and made him their son instead of their grandson," Bork said.
Now, the grandmother, Theresa, is looking at what's left of her home. Bork said she's mourning the loss of her husband and the betrayal of her grandson.
"She was just, dumbstruck," he said. "It was like there was no emotion."
Nicholas was found at a friend's house Thursday and was not hurt, the sheriff's office said.
Investigators, working off several witness interviews and follow-up work, named Nicholas and his 15-year-old friend as primary suspects in the case.
Officers continued to investigate and recovered nearly $50,000 in stolen money and other evidence of the theft after obtaining search warrants.
Investigators believe Nicholas and the second suspect conspired to steal the cash, which was being stored at Nicholas' grandparents' house.
"I don't know how she's going to deal with this especially now that the sheriff is saying her son is the cause of it," Bork said.
Nicholas faces Measure 11 charges of murder and arson in the first degree, as well as aggravated theft in the first degree.
The second suspect is facing charges of attempted arson in the first degree and aggravated theft in the first degree, which are not Measure 11 charges.
Deputies said this is an ongoing investigation and additional persons of interest are being identified.