ONLY ON 13: Huntsville homeowner, who alleged a hate crime at his property, charged with arson

Mycah Hatfield Image
Tuesday, November 28, 2023
Man who alleged hate crime charged after deadly fire at his home
San Jacinto County authorities charged Huntsville homeowner Mario Roberson with arson after a fire at his property killed two people.

HUNTSVILLE, Texas (KTRK) -- A Houston man is being charged with felony arson in San Jacinto County for a fire at his home that killed two men.

A grand jury met Monday morning and issued a "true bill" for Mario Roberson after a monthslong investigation by the Texas State Fire Marshal's Office.

Roberson's rental home in the Waterwood neighborhood in Huntsville caught fire on June 10 at 2:30 a.m. Two men, including one of his family members, died in the fire. Another man escaped with serious injuries.

"Racism, power hungriness, money has gotten us to this place," Roberson told ABC13 the afternoon of the fire.

ABC13 conducted several on-camera interviews with Roberson, including the first one in May 2023, when he claimed racist graffiti was painted on his home.

The message on the side door of Roberson's home read, "We don't like your kind," and ended with a racial slur.

On May 9, 2023, Mario Roberson showed Eyewitness News the graffiti on his property that he claimed was a targeted hate crime by his homeowners' association.

At the time, he blamed the neighborhood's homeowners' association, citing an ongoing dispute over short-term rentals.

"People are being terrible because of the hatred in their heart," Roberson told ABC13 then.

Two days after the fire, Roberson held a news conference alongside Quanell X and Candice Matthews, where he tearfully said, "Look, I feel like this, worn down, torn down. This is my first time looking at it, seeing it since it actually happened."

ABC13 obtained body-worn camera video from law enforcement at the fire scene on June 10.

In it, Roberson is heard telling authorities, "The neighbors called me. I kept hearing the phone ring. She said, 'Mario, your house is on fire.' I thought she was playing. She said, 'Your truck.' I come over here, and I didn't expect to see this... Matter of fact, when this went down, I know y'all heard about this racist stuff that was sprayed on my door."

According to neighbors, the man who survived the fire got out covered in flames. He drove a truck away from the scene and later crashed into a ditch. San Jacinto County deputies found him.

"I stepped in some gas," the burned man told the deputy. "I'm burned up."

When asked by the deputy what happened, the man said, "I'm telling you. I'm from Houston. This dude, he told me to bring him out here to Huntsville... He said somebody wants to do a numbers job on a house."

Law enforcement tells ABC13 that a "numbers job" is often used to refer to insurance fraud.

"Whoever is doing it, he knows the man with the house," the burned man is heard telling a deputy on body-camera video. "A numbers job or something. That's all I know."

Investigators believe that the developed case will shed light on public claims made by Roberson.

Roberson, who did not know about the charge, told ABC13 over the phone that he denied all the claims.

The case remains under investigation by the FBI.

His background brings up several civil lawsuits against him in Oklahoma and Texas, mainly regarding money.

A civil lawsuit in Harris County was filed precisely four years to the day before the fire, listing Roberson as the defendant.

At the end of 2017, the suit said he agreed to buy a property off Beltway 8 containing a golf course, hotel, seven office buildings, and a restaurant for $104 million.

That agreement was made 13 years after records show he filed for bankruptcy.

The lawsuit claims Roberson showed up to a title company's office in June 2018 to execute a purchase and sale agreement with what he claimed was $1 million in cash in briefcases. The plaintiff noted in the lawsuit that he did not believe the money existed.

Ultimately, the judge signed an order of non-suit, which dismissed the case without prejudice to Roberson.

As of Monday night, Roberson was not in custody.

A first-degree felony arson charge carries anywhere from five to 99 years behind bars if found guilty.

SEE ALSO: Racial slur graffitied on Huntsville homeowner's door amid tensions with neighborhood association

Only ABC13 is speaking with a Huntsville homeowner, who's Black, after a racial slur was graffitied on his door.

Huntsville homeowner believes 1 of the 2 people killed at his home was a relative

Only ABC13 has been reporting on a Huntsville homeowner's friction with his homeowners association, including racist messaging spray-painted on his door. Now, he believes things have escalated with deadly consequences.