Man charged with murder of his mother, step-father after Dundas house fire

An elementary school teacher has been charged murdering his mother and step father by burning down his childhood home in what Hamilton police described as “financially motivated” killings.

Richard Taylor, 42, was arrested Wednesday and is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in connection with the fire investigators say was intentionally set.

“We believe Richard Taylor acted alone,” Sgt. Steve Bereziuk said at a press conference Thursday afternoon, and that “the murder of his mother and step-father was financially motivated.”

Carla and Alan Rutherford were asleep in their home at 8 Greening Court in Dundas, Ont. on July 9, 2018 when the fire was parked, according to police.

Carla, 64, was unable to escape the flames and was pronounced dead at the scene, said Bereziuk. Alan, 63, tried to save his wife and the family’s dogs, before fleeing the burning house with burns to most of his body.

The 63-year-old managed to knocked on a neighbour’s door and was found on the front lawn when firefighters arrived. He later died in hospital.

The fire was started in the couple’s bedroom, the detective added.

“[The couple] were peacefully asleep in their home at the time and based on evidence it would become clear to investigators that this fire was set with one purpose, to kill Alan and Carla Rutherford.”

A report from the Office of the Ontario Fire Marshal confirmed back in October that the fire that killed the retired couple was arson. Police had been investigating the deaths as a homicide.

An October report from the Office of the Ontario Fire Marshal confirmed the fire was arson, according to police. (Tony Smyth/CBC)

Taylor, who lives in Oakville, works as a teacher at Hamilton’s Hess Street Elementary School. The school’s website says he worked in the library and taught physical education and health.

A spokesperson for the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board said Thursday Taylor had been “reassigned to home effective immediately.”

Bereziuk said he hasn’t heard of any concern from parents about student safety at the school. He added the killings were targeted and no members of the public are at risk.

The “horrific” crime has left Taylor’s surviving family members in a very difficult position, added Bereziuk.

“They’re grieving the loss of their parents, but at the same time now they have to grasp the idea that one of their own family members is responsible for this crime,” he explained. “So they’re grieving and trying to find some help the best way they can.”