Deputies: Father cut gas line in attempt to blow up family

Deputies: Father cut gas line in attempt to blow up family »Play Video
James Speidel

PORTLAND, Ore. - A husband and father of four is under arrest after deputies said he severed a natural gas line at his Bethany home in an attempt to hurt or kill his wife and young children on Tuesday.

The man's wife smelled the gas leak and evacuated the children before an explosion. No one was hurt.

The children range in age from 3 to 9 years old.

Washington Country Sheriff's Office deputies said the man's wife called gas provider Northwest Natural after smelling gas in her home on N.W. Joseph Court at about 7:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Deputies said gas company employees inspecting the leak shut off the gas and then told her to call the sheriff’s office. Investigators then determined the gas line had been intentionally cut.

Deputies investigating the incident said James Speidel, 36, was found hiding in a grassy area off N.W. Germantown Road Tuesday afternoon and was taken to a hospital; however, deputies did not specify why.

Deputies believe Speidel intentionally cut the line in order to harm his own family. They say he snipped the hose of a natural gas line leading to an outdoor grill in the backyard and redirected it into the crawl space of the house.

At about 9 p.m., Speidel was released from the hospital and arrested.

Speidel faces five counts of attempted murder, five counts of attempted assault and attempted arson charges. He was taken to the Washington County Jail after his release from the hospital and is being held on $1 million bail.

He appeared in court in the afternoon. Investigators have not revealed a possible motive in the case.

An investigation into the incident is ongoing. Investigators said there was enough gas in the home to cause damage to surrounding homes if the gas had exploded.

According to the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, deputies responded to the Speidel home just before 11:30 Monday night after an alarm started going off.

They found no one home and left messages on the family's cell and home phones, telling them their alarm had gone off. They also checked out the property and, finding no signs of a break-in, they left a card, notifying them they had been to the home and why.

"We had no reason to think it was anything more than an alarm going off," said Bob Ray, with the sheriff's office. "We respond to a lot of those. Obviously, now we are investigating to see if it was connected to what happened later."

Speidel's neighbors who know him wouldn't say much other than they're shocked.

Speidel works for Nike as a business director for the company's "SPARQ" division.

He also was a volunteer for LifeWorks NW, serving on its marketing committee from 2009 to 2010. That organization provides treatment and counseling for people with drug addictions and mental health issues.

According to the University of Oregon, he attended the school in the 1990s and again in the spring of 2011 and winter of 2012, majoring in social sciences. But there is no record he ever earned a degree.

A records search revealed Speidel was arrested for DUII in 2007 and pleaded “no contest.” He was sentenced to a diversion program. In 1998 he was convicted of speeding in Clackamas County.