Madison County man charged 11 years after house fire killed his wife, 2 children

Peter Romans (Madison County Sheriff's Office)

It's been 11 years since a mother and her two children died in a Madison County house fire.

Investigators ruled the fire arson, but no one was ever charged, until now.

Police arrested 59-year-old Peter Romans Monday after a grand jury charged him with the murder of his wife and children.

Billi Romans | Ami Romans and Caleb Romans (WBNS file photo)

Only 10TV was there as Romans was taken into jail. Romans stayed silent in the face of reporter questions:

"Pete did you kill your family?"
"Did you start that fire Pete?"
"Who started that fire Pete?"
"Who could do this to your wife and kids? What kind of person could do this?"

They are the questions that have haunted many in Madison County for 11 years now, including Sheriff John Swaney.

"It was a devastating fire. It was a massive fire. The house was totally engulfed," Swaney said.

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He was called to the scene in West Jefferson the morning of April 6, 2008, as firefighters made the grisly discovery of three victims by the home's back door: 51-year-old Billi Romans, 16-year-old Ami Romans and 12-year-old Caleb.

"That was devastating to our community. We don't have scenes like that out here in Madison county," Swaney said.

Only one person would escape the flames: Peter Romans, Billi's husband and the children's father.

"I don't know how the man could go on after losing his wife and two children," said neighbor Patricia Cash the morning after the fire.

Peter Romans did go on, with the help of his church family.

Romans filed suit against Ford, claiming a faulty cruise control switch caused the fire that began in the family's SUV and quickly spread to the house.

But fire investigators say the truck was doused in kerosene, and the fire was no accident. It was ruled arson in 2009.

"We've never forgot about this case," Swaney said.

He says investigators from his office, the State Fire Marshal's Office, the Madison County Prosecutor and Ohio Attorney General's Office have been quietly, diligently working toward this day.

"It just shows good perseverance of everybody involved, numerous agencies involved, that nobody ever gave up. The loss of Ami and Billi and Caleb (is) just something that haunts the back of your mind. And we don't give up."

Peter Romans was in jail Monday night, his first court appearance is set for Friday.

This is a story 10TV has been covering since the very start. You'll find a complete timeline of the tragedy:

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