NewsLocal NewsGrand Rapids


Court documents reveal couple's troubled past prior to deadly fire

Posted at 11:05 AM, Feb 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-07 18:08:39-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — According to court documents a mother who died this week along with her three kids in a house fire was afraid for her safety after being threatened by her husband.

Fire officials responded to the home of Robert and Wanedia Scales around 12:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Wanedia Scales and her 15-year-old son Xavier Woldeab were pronounced dead on scene. Her 13-year-old Robert Scales Jr and 9-year-old Elijah Scales were rushed to Helen DeVos Children's Hospital but did not survive.

Court documents filed by Wanedia Scales in September of 2019 appear to show that she was afraid that her husband was going to kill her. In a request for a personal protection order from her husband Robert, she said that police were called to their home on Sept. 1 last year.

Wanedia wrote in her request, "Defendant vandalized property and has threatened to burn the house down with me in it."

She said her husband had vandalized their home.

"He also threaten me in front of his children that if I try and stop him from damaging the house my face was going to be next than he took his pointer finger in front of his kids and shoved my face," Wanedia Scales wrote in her request.

Wanedia Scales' request for a personal protection order was eventually dismissed. A separate divorce filing was also dismissed.

A sergeant with the Grand Rapids Police Department confirmed to FOX 17 Friday that their officers had indeed responded to a domestic situation at the Scales' residence on September 1, 2019. He said that property in the home was destroyed, but that no arrests were made.

Police said in a statement late Friday afternoon that an investigation into the incident is "ongoing and all leads are currently being pursued." They also reiterated what fire investigators had said Wednesday morning, that there were no working smoke detectors inside the home at the time of the fatal fire.

Grand Rapids Fire Chief John Lehman initially said Wednesday morning that his investigators had no reason to consider the fire suspicious. Police and fire investigators were on scene most of Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning.

Grand Rapids city officials sent a statement to FOX 17 Friday morning saying:

"Grand Rapids Fire Department investigators are continuing to collect and analyze data from the recent fatal fire at 2902 Dawes Ave. SE in Grand Rapids. It is inappropriate for investigators to answer speculative questions before an investigation has concluded.

Fire investigation is a methodical process in which careful stepwise progress leads to the final determination of the fire’s origin and cause. There are many pieces of information that need to be processed to provide correct conclusions.

The Grand Rapids Fire Department will update this incident as soon as the report is finalized."

We have confirmed with the Kent County Medical Examiner, Stephen Cohle, that the cause of death for all four victims is believed to be smoke inhalation. Autopsies were conducted on Wanedia and Xavier, finding high levels of carbon-monoxide in their systems. Full autopsies have not been done on the other two children, but both Robert and Elijah also had high levels of carbon-monoxide in their systems. Cohle did say the results indicate all four victims were alive when the fire started.