KEY POINTS

  • The mother of the suspect was able to escape the blaze with critical burns
  • The suspect "laughed" when investigators updated him about his family 
  • He called the incident a "failed attempt"

A Texas man allegedly set his family home on fire that killed his brother and critically injured his mother because the pair “did not follow the Bible.”

The suspect, Philip Mills, 40, has been charged with capital murder and arson for setting his family’s El Paso home on fire Thursday night, the New York Post reported. The blaze killed his 54-year-old brother, Paul Mills, and severely injured his mother. The suspect reportedly told investigators that he set the house on fire because his brother and mother did not follow the Bible

Philip told the investigators that he used gasoline from a weed whacker and poured it onto a living room couch. He then set it on fire to trigger the blaze, the report said. 

According to an arrest affidavit cited by KTSM, Philip walked out of the home after setting it on fire. He then waited outside with “large rocks in his hands” in case his brother and mother made it out of the burning residence.  

Florence Annette Mills, the suspect's 82-year-old mother, was able to escape the blaze and was rescued by first responders. She suffered from serious burns and was hospitalized in critical condition. Paul was also pulled out of the house with severe burns and was transported to a local hospital where he passed away, police said in a statement on Facebook.  

According to the affidavit, when Philip was made aware of his mother’s serious condition, he “laughed and told the investigators that he was shocked that both his mother and brother did not perish and called the incident a ‘failed attempt,’” the New York Post reported.

A neighbour, Roger Torres, was cited as saying by KTSM that Philip was acting strange earlier in the day. “He was bad news, all he would do was sit out there and drink and smoke and I noticed he was back to his old routine,” he said.

Philip already had an extensive criminal record, including criminal trespass and evading arrest before Thursday’s incident.  

“When we found out only two were transported we thought ‘what happened to the other brother’ there were three (people) so I thought, in my opinion, he had something to do with it,” Torres added.

The incident is being investigated by the El Paso Police Department’s Crimes Against Persons and Fire Department marshals. 

Fire officials said the building where the blast occurred housed a business -- Smoke Totes Wholesale Distribution -- that sold smoking and vaping paraphernalia Representational image. Photo: AFP / Apu GOMES