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Natural gas line severed under house occupied by wife and four children

Washington County Sheriff's deputies arrested a Bethany man Tuesday morning after he allegedly attempted to create an explosion in the house occupied by his wife and four young children.

Following a search for the husband and father, deputies found James Speidel, 36, in a grassy area off Northwest Germantown Road. He was treated at a nearby hospital for a condition unrelated to the incident before he was arrested and lodged in the Washington County Jail, said Sgt. Bob Ray, a sheriff's office spokesman.

Around 7:20 a.m. Tuesday, the man's 38-year-old wife and mother of his children reported to Northwest Natural Gas a 'very strong odor' of gas at the family's residence in the 14000 block of Northwest Joseph Court in Bethany. She left the house with her four young children.

A technician discovered an external natural gas line had been severed, and a large amount of natural gas was leaking under the house. The Northwest Natural Gas employee turned off the gas and advised the mother to call the sheriff's office.

Deputies responded to the residence, which is in an area of the Enhanced Sheriff's Patrol District, around 8:50 p.m. Investigators discovered the gas line appeared to be intentionally cut and placed in a position that would allow the flow of explosive natural gas to fill the crawl space under the house.

Deputies believed the husband and father of the four children, who range in age from three to nine years old, was responsible for the incident and concluded Speidel intentionally cut the gas line to cause his family harm, Ray said.

Speidel had fled the scene earlier, with several deputies searching for him. He was found around 1:30 p.m. hiding in a grassy area off Northwest Germantown Road.

Speidel was released from the hospital at 9 p.m., when deputies arrested him. He is lodged in the Washington County Jail on five accusations of aggravated attempted murder, five counts of first-degree assault and attempted arson. He is held pending $1 million bail, Ray said.

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