Wife escapes, husband found dead in house fire in north Houston

HOUSTON – A man was killed Friday in a fire that destroyed a home in north Houston.

Firefighters were called around 2 a.m. to a home on East Crosstimbers at Roswell.   

The wife of the 50-year-old victim said they were burning candles for light and warmth. Carolina Johnson said her family fell asleep around midnight. She said she woke up to her husband screaming about the fire.

"He yelled, 'Fire!' He was the one who was alerted by the fire, originally, and woke up everyone in the house," said Detective Christopher Elder, with the Houston Police Department's Homicide Unit.

Johnson said she ran into another room, grabbed her 11-year-old son and ran out of the house. She said she thought her husband was right behind her. 

"When she got outside, she could hear him saying, 'Help! Help!' Unfortunately, she was unable to get inside," Elder said.

Investigators found his body near the front of the house.

"It looked like he was disoriented. Maybe he was half asleep, he was still in the bed. There were bed springs underneath him," Elder said. "We don't believe he was able to get out of bed."

Police said they don't believe the fire was intentional.

"We believe it's just a freak accident. A candle, perhaps, burned down and catching the table or the bed on fire," Elder said.

The Johnsons are one of four families living in the home, police said. Investigators said the owner once rented each room to families in need.

Carolina Johnson told police she, her son, who has special needs, and her husband, Eric Johnson, lived there for three years. The first year, the landlord let the families pay whatever they could, Carolina Johnson told police. She said the next year, the landlord shut off the utilities in an attempt to evict all the families and did not ask for rent. They were living without electricity, heat or water for two years, Carolina Johnson said.

Throughout the day, firefighters continued pouring water onto the structure while Carolina Johnson and her son sat outside on the curb. "We don't have any plans. Everything just fell apart,” said Carolina Johnson. "I don't know. I just wish my husband could come over there and say 'Come on. Let's go.' I'm holding onto hope that ... I'm sorry." 

Investigators said they are following up with the owner of the home to see exactly what the living conditions were and who was supposed to be there.

"There was no electricity in this home. We're trying to get in touch with the owner of the home," said Elder.

Carolina Johnson is being assisted by HPD's Victim Services Unit.