A small drug debt, three arson deaths, and now life in prison

A Connecticut man convicted of starting a fire that killed three people has been sentenced to life in prison by a federal judge.

Hector Natal, also known as “Boom” and “Boom Boom,” 29, of New Haven, was convicted of committing the March 2011 arson of a two-family house in New Haven that caused the deaths of 41-year-old Wanda Roberson, her 8-year-old son Quayshaun Roberson and her 21-year-old niece Jaqueeta Roberson.

He was sentenced on Feb. 25 by  U.S. District Judge Janet Bond Arterton in New Haven federal court.

“Hector Natal set fire to his neighbors’ home knowing that two large families, which included older women and young children, were inside,” said Deirdre M. Daly, U.S. attorney for Connecticut.

“This reckless act took the lives of three innocents — Wanda Roberson, her young son Quayshaun and her niece Jaqueeta — and the sentence imposed today will protect society from this defendant,” Daly said.

Customer’s small drug debt

In April 2013 after a four-week trial, Natal and his father, Hector Morales, were found guilty on all counts of an 11-count indictment.

According to the evidence presented during trial, Natal was a New Haven drug dealer who sold cocaine, crack cocaine, pills and marijuana. Morales served as Natal’s driver, facilitating his sales of narcotics and collection of drug proceeds.

Early on the morning of March 9, 2011, Natal set fire to 48-50 Wolcott St. in New Haven’s Fair Haven section in retaliation for a customer’s failure to pay a small drug debt, prosecutors said.

Seventeen people, including three toddlers, two pregnant women and two grandmothers, were in the house at the time the fire was set. Natal and Morales lived close to the Wolcott house.

The evidence at trial also showed that, months before the fatal fire, Natal attempted to set a fire in the same Wolcott Street house.

Guilty on multiple charges

Natal was found guilty of three counts of arson resulting in death, and one count of attempted arson.  Natal and Morales were both convicted of conspiring to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute narcotics, conspiring to tamper with witnesses, and witness tampering.

Morales was found guilty on three counts of being an accessory after the fact to the arson, and one count of destruction and concealment of evidence.

Natal has been detained since his arrest in June 2011. Morales had been sentenced to 14-and-a-half years in prison in January.

Federal, state and local cooperation

This matter was investigated by the FBI; New Haven Police Department; Connecticut State Police Major Crimes Unit; State Fire Marshal’s Office; New Haven Fire Department Fire Marshal’s Office; federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Inspector General.

The case was prosecuted by Daly and First Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael J. Gustafson from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Connecticut, with assistance and support from the New Haven State’s Attorney’s Office.