UPDATE: Father of 3 children rescued from fire charged with arson


A Riviera Beach man charged with setting an apartment on fire with his three young children inside Friday refused to appear for his scheduled court hearing Saturday.

Circuit Court Judge Mark Eissey rescheduled the initial hearing for Velmando J. Williams, 22, for Sunday.

Williams is accused of attempted murder, first-degree arson, false imprisonment and simple domestic battery after authorities alleged that he intentionally started a fire at the Stonybrook Apartments Friday evening during an argument with the mother of his children. Neighboring residents and city firefighters rushed into the burning the apartment to save a 3-year-old, a 1-year-old and a 1-month-old from the fire.

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The two older children were treated at the scene while the infant was taken to the St. Mary’s Medical Center as a trauma patient. An update on the child’s condition was not available Saturday morning.

A State Fire Marshal investigator responded to scene and the determined that the fire had been set intentionally.

The situation unfolded just before 5:45 p.m. Friday in the 1500 block of Dr. Martin Luther King Boulevard. Officers were called to investigate a domestic dispute. Additional callers reported a structure fire at the same location and informed officers three young children were inside.

Williams was identified as the suspect after investigators spoke to the children’s mother and other witnesses. Court records show that Williams has a history of arrests in Palm Beach County, including a 2015 arrest on multiple counts of aggravated battery.

Prosecutors dropped three counts and reduced a charge of aggravated battery on a pregnant person from a felony to a misdemeanor, court records show. Williams as placed on 12 months probation in July after negotiating a plea agreement.

Investigators are still seeking information about Friday’s incident. Anyone with related information is asked to call the Riviera Beach Police Department at 561-845-4123, or Crime Stoppers at 800-458-TIPS (8477).

Staff Writer Hannah Winston contributed to this report.



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