U.S. News

Mystery arson that killed 5 members of Senegalese family still unsolved

Clayton Sandell/ABC


(DENVER) — More than three months since a mysterious arson fire killed five members of a Senegalese family, the blackened, burned-out shell of a house where they died stands untouched, surrounded by a chain-link fence covered with dry, faded flower bouquets and dirty stuffed animals.

The house, located in a new subdivision not far from the Denver airport, looks much the way it did on Aug. 5. Around 3:30 a.m., police say three suspects in eerie face masks approached in darkness, igniting a fire that took the lives of three adults, a toddler and an infant.

The suspected arsonists were captured in an image from a neighbor’s security camera. But despite a $40,000 reward, police say they have made no arrests, and most leads have gone nowhere.

Djibril Diol, 29, his wife Adja Diol, 23, and their 2-year old daughter Khadija were killed, along with Djibril’s sister Hassan and her infant daughter, Hawa. Friends and family say Adja, Khadija, Hassan and Hawa had recently emigrated to the United States from Senegal. Djibril came to America in 2012 and graduated from Colorado State University with a degree in civil engineering. Before his death, he was working for a construction company on a major highway project.

Despite the apparent lack of progress, the Denver Police Department says the case is still a top priority.

Two detectives are assigned to the case full-time, said Lt. Matt Clark of the major crimes unit. The department is also getting help from agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, according to Clark.

As credible tips have come in suggesting possible leads or suspects, investigators have recently been serving search warrants for potential evidence like cellphone records, Clark said.

“Some of these are connected to tips, and some are just general investigative tactics to identify and place someone at a location,” he said. “A lot of these are digital warrants. They’re not physical locations.”

In addition, the department has assigned a sergeant from the cold case unit to help, though Clark insisted it is not considered a cold case.

“This is just a resource I had available that I think could be beneficial to the investigation,” he said.

Some community members are growing increasingly frustrated and discouraged at the lack of arrests and the addition of a cold case investigator.

“Everybody is asking for updates, and there’s been nothing,” said Ousman Ba, a Diol family friend.

Friends, family and the police said the victims appeared to have been thriving in the United States and had no past trouble or enemies that would suggest a motive.

For now, there is hope that new digital billboards and posters on city buses will keep the case in the public eye and hopefully yield a clue that might break the case.

“We haven’t given up,” Clark said. “This is a very complex case, and it’s getting the resources and diligence that I think it deserves so we can bring justice to the family.”

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