Police: Bethany dad cut gas line to kill family

Police: Bethany dad cut gas line to kill family

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by kgw.com Staff

kgw.com

Posted on December 18, 2012 at 12:54 PM

HILLSBORO -- A 36-year-old dad and Nike executive is accused of cutting his home's natural gas line in an attempt to  kill his wife and four children in the community of Bethany, west of Portland.

James Speidel was arrested on five counts of attempted aggravated murder, five counts of attempted assault and attempted arson. Investigators said the motive was unclear.

The man's 38-year-old wife smelled a strong odor of natural gas early Tuesday morning and fled the house with their four children, ranging in age from 3 to 9, according to Sgt. Bob Ray with the Washington County Sheriff's Office.

Northwest Natural Gas found that an external gas line had been severed and a large amount of gas was leaking under the house. The crew shut off the gas and advised the woman to call the sheriff's office.

"We don't know why anyone would do this, unless it was their intent to blow the house up," Ray said.

The gas line appeared to be intentionally cut and pointed toward the crawl space under the home, Ray said. Deputies began searching for Speidel and found him Tuesday afternoon hiding in a field off Germantown Road. After hospital treatment for an unrelated condition, he was arrested.

"It was clear to us that his intent was to harm his family, his wife and four young children which is disturbing enough, but to also do something that places a lot of other people in danger also is, it's just disturbing to all of us,” Ray said.

Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue investigators said there was enough gas in the house to potentially blow it up if ignited. Ray said the blast would have been so strong, it likely would have damaged neighboring homes as well.

Bail was set at $1 million for Speidel. His next court date was scheduled for May 2nd.

Speidel is an employee of Nike, a company official confirmed Wednesday morning. He holds the title of Business Director for a Nike division called SPARQ, which works directly with athletes and their training regimens.

Nike company officials declined further comment.

Speidel also recently spoke at a University of Oregon seminar in late March that featured Arts & Sciences graduates. Watch the video. (Speidel appears at about the 35-minute mark.)

Officials with NW Natural released a statement regarding the natural gas investigation that said Speidel's wife did the right thing by leaving her home after noticing the odd smell. They said this was a powerful reminder that people should know the warning signs outlined on the safety page of their website.

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