Man dead in arson fire and alleged partner in custody

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PHOENIX -- Investigators say the man found dead outside a burning building over the weekend was actually the one who started the fire in the first place by cooking the books -- literally.

'Lookout' charged

Man found dead outside burning building was arson accomplice? - An arson fire in southeast Phoenix has turned into a murder investigation.

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The body of a man in his 30s was discovered outside the burning Young Champions of America building at 40th Street and Roeser Road shortly before 1 a.m. Sunday. The discovery of the body was one of the reasons fire investigators initially labeled the fire as suspicious.

Now investigators say that man and a second man, identified as 19-year-old Johnathan Antonucci, both worked at Young Champions of America, were being investigated for embezzlement.

According to the Phoenix Fire Department, the man who was killed started the fire by pouring fuel on the accounting books. He used so much that when he tried to light the books, it sparked a large explosion.

By the time fire crews arrived on the scene, the flames were so intense that they immediately had to go defensive and focus on keeping the fire from spreading.

Capt. Dorian Jackson of the Phoenix Fire Department said the man found outside was already dead when crews arrived on the scene. Authorities have not released exactly how the man died, but Jackson said there were some burns on his body.

Antonucci, who is under investigation, was taken into custody in connection with the fire. Investigators believe he was the lookout and never actually went inside the building. He is facing charges of arson and murder.

At this point, authorities have not released the name of the man killed in the fire. The investigation is ongoing.

The company Young Champions of America Inc. specializes in youth recreational and sports programs.