Skip to Full Menu

Providing information, education, and training to build knowledge, develop skills, and change attitudes that will lead to increased independence, productivity, self determination, integration and inclusion (IPSII) for people with developmental disabilities and their families.

Teen Struggled To Get Out Of Blazing Apartment, Neighbor Says
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
May 23, 2006

ALBANY, OREGON--A teenage boy with autism, who was locked in his parents' apartment while it burned, apparently tried desperately to get out before he was rescued.

Jeris Chavez, a neighbor who lives in the same apartment complex, told the Corvallis Gazette-Times that she and a cousin were in their back yard on Mother's Day when they saw smoke coming from the DeGroot family's apartment.

Chavez immediately called 9-1-1.

"I told them to get here fast cause I knew there was a kid inside," she told the newspaper Tuesday, adding that she saw the teenager's father leave the apartment about a half hour earlier.

Chavez, who has a 9-year-old grandson with autism, said her cousin could hear 19-year-old Christopher Air DeGroot pounding on the wall from inside the apartment. Neighbors had difficulty getting the door open because Christopher's parents had installed a dead bolt lock that required a key to open it from the inside. The windows had also been locked.

Christopher died in a Portland hospital last Friday from burns he sustained during that fire.

Investigators determined that the fire had been set with some sort of paper in the living room.

Prosecutor Michael Wynhausen said Monday that the time from when Nicolaas and Agnes DeGroot left to the time the fire started indicated that they started the blaze and then "sealed" Christopher inside alone.

Both parents face one count of first-degree arson. Each also faces a charge of first-degree manslaughter -- upgraded Monday from second-degree. They are now being held in Linn County jail on $500,000 security each.


©2016 The Minnesota Governor's Council on Developmental Disabilities
 370 Centennial Office Building  658 Cedar Street   St. Paul, Minnesota 55155 
Phone: 651.296.4018   Toll-free number: 877.348.0505   MN Relay Service: 800.627.3529 OR 711   Fax: 651.297.7200 
Email:   View Privacy Policy   An Equal Opportunity Employer 

The GCDD is funded under the provisions of P.L. 106-402. The federal law also provides funding to the Minnesota Disability Law Center,the state Protection and Advocacy System, and to the Institute on Community Integration, the state University Center for Excellence. The Minnesota network of programs works to increase the IPSII of people with developmental disabilities and families into community life.