A US millionaire was so afraid of a North Korean nuclear attack that he hired a worker to dig a bunker underneath his home. It ended in the man's fiery death.
- A Maryland millionaire was sentenced on Monday to nine years in prison in the death of a worker he hired to dig out a nuclear bunker.
- Daniel Beckwitt, 28, was convicted in April of "depraved heart" second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter, after 23-year-old Askia Khafra died in an electrical fire in Beckwitt's basement.
- Beckwitt had become obsessed in recent years by the idea of North Korean missile strikes, and decided to build a bunker in secret, his defense attorney said during the trial.
- A judge on Monday said Beckwitt's "intellectual arrogance" led to Khafra's death.
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A millionaire stock trader was sentenced on Monday to nine years in prison, after a worker died in an electrical fire in the man's basement while digging out a secret nuclear bunker that prosecutors called a "death trap".
Daniel Beckwitt, 28, was convicted of "depraved heart" second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter in April in the death of 21-year-old Askia Khafra, court records show. Beckitt faced a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison, according to prosecutors.
Beckwitt, fearing an attack from North Korea, had hired Khafra in 2017 to dig out a network of tunnels beneath his home in Bethesda, Maryland, The Washington Post reported.
Local news outlets have published photos of the bunker, showing a complex array of pulleys, buckets, and ropes.
A victim of 'intellectual arrogance'
Beckwitt had become obsessed with North Korea and potential missile strikes several years earlier, his defense attorney, Robert Bonsib, said during the trial, according to The Post.
But he didn't hire professional contractors to construct the bunker because he wanted to keep it a secret - instead, Beckwitt hired several acquaintances to dig out the tunnels, including Khafra.
Beckwitt was so secretive about the project that he even forced Khafra to wear "blackout glasses" during the journeys to Beckwitt's home, so that Khafra wouldn't see where he was being driven, according to the Post and The Times. Instead, Beckwitt told Khafra they were traveling to an "undisclosed location in Virginia," though the home was in Maryland.
Khafra would then spend days at a time excavating the tunnels, even sleeping inside them.
Montgomery County authorities said they found Khafra dead in Beckwitt's basement on September 10, 2017, while responding to an accidental blaze at the home.
A medical examiner ruled that Khafra died from smoke inhalation and "thermal injuries."
In a roughly three-hour sentencing hearing on Monday, Montgomery County Circuit Judge Margaret Schweitzer deplored of Beckwitt's waste of his own brilliance and faulted him for his "intellectual arrogance," The New York Times reported.
She noted that he could have instead used his computer skills to help the country defend itself against cyberattacks, or help people with disabilities.
"I can't imagine what you could have done if you considered altruistic needs," she said, according to The Post.
Beckwitt said during the hearing that he tried to save Khafra.
"The smoke simply became too thick for me to find him before my vision faded. I became dizzy, weak, and too lightheaded to continue," Beckwitt said. "One simply cannot put into words the magnitude of loss suffered here."
- Read more:
- How the US could prevent a North Korean nuclear strike - according to a former Marine and cyberwarfare expert
- A Los Angeles suburb released this ominous video about how to survive a nuclear attack
- Here's how a North Korean nuclear attack on the US would play out
- These are the secret bunkers government officials will go to in the event of an attack
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