Arson-Slaying Suspect Dies In Apparent Suicide -- Spokane County Man Accused Of Strangling Son

SPOKANE - A man charged with strangling his 11-year-old son and setting fire to their home partly to draw attention from himself in the killing was found dead yesterday in an apparent suicide, Spokane County sheriff's officers said.

Robert Wood, 43, of Newman Lake, was found hanging in his cell at the county jail annex after guards were alerted by another inmate shortly after 11 a.m., Lt. David Wiyrick said.

Guards and paramedics attempted to revive Wood without success; he was pronounced dead at the scene.

The former roofing and construction supervisor had not threatened suicide and was not under suicide watch, but he had been checked by corrections officers within an hour of his death, Wiyrick added.

Wood, a twice-divorced father of six, was being held in lieu of $1.1 million bond pending trial Nov. 1 on charges of first-degree murder and first-degree arson.

He was charged with strangling his son Christopher on Feb. 9 and of setting the fire that burned down the family's suburban home the same day.

The boy's body, with shoes on the wrong feet, was found two days later in a snowbank 40 miles away on a road leading to Colville. That same day, Wood was arrested on an unrelated charge of theft of $105,000 from Crown West Realty, where he worked until he was fired in January.

The more serious charges were filed later. Detectives said Wood tightened a rope or some other device around his son's neck and set fire to a couch in the family room after the boy's sister, Theresa, 16, had left for school.

Wood maintained he was innocent on all charges, saying he last saw the boy heading for school and suggested the youngster might have set fire to the house and then run away in fear of being caught.

Prosecutors said Wood committed the killing and fire largely for insurance proceeds following financial setbacks. He had twice filed for bankruptcy protection and had a criminal history of fraud and theft.

Neighbors like Beth Hall, however, described him as a good Samaritan. She said he once helped her family build a deck on their home and never suggested he should be paid anything.

"He was a great neighbor," Hall said. "Bob did everything for people."