Iowa community shocked: man admits stabbing grandfather & setting house on fire

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ROCK VALLEY, IOWA (KSFY) - Police release more details about a fatal fire in Rock Valley, Iowa that occurred nearly two weeks ago.

Investigators found 84-year-old Luis Luevanos deceased inside the home, but now police are saying Luevanos was stabbed before the fire began.

His grandson, 19-year-old Santos Rodriguez Junior, admitted to stabbing Luevanos and setting the house on fire.

Police are not releasing very much information at this time.
But just the few facts that have been released have sent shockwaves through the community.

Most people knew about the fire and that Luevanos had died, but news of this violent crime has many people in disbelief.

The days are starting to get cold and the bright lights on Main Street mean people are getting ready for the holidays, but just a block away, caution tape puts a damper on any festive display.

“Don't make sense,” neighbor Jerald Hoogendoorn said.

The home where Luis Luevanos lived is still surrounded by that tape.
The front door sits wide open, the windows blackened, and the entire back side of the house charred.

Nearly two weeks ago, the fire that caused this damage woke up the entire neighborhood in the middle of the night.

“Came outside and I saw flames shooting out the back of the house like 30-40 feet long,” Hoogendoorn said. “Never seen nothing like this before.”

Hoogendoorn has lived in Rock Valley for 34 years and says the community is reeling.

“Word got out on Facebook and everybody was quite shocked,” he said.

He says he didn't know Luevanos very well.

“He came here about a year, year and a half ago in the summer time, and he always sat out in front of his house every day. Never bothered anybody,” he said.

According to police, 19-year-old Santos Rodriguez Junior, fled the state after the fire.

Iowa DCI agents interviewed him in Utah.

During that process he admitted to stabbing his grandfather and setting fire to the house.

“They were just renting it. I think that's awful bad. To set somebody else’s house on fire and then kill the man. It's awful bad,” Hoogendoorn said.

And since the town is so small…

“It's usually a pretty safe community,” Rock Valley resident Jane Vermulm said.

Many people are saddened as they try to wrap their heads around what happened.

“It's a small community, so whenever anything happens in the community like this it's shocking to us, and everybody begins to kind of think about wow that could have been me,” Vermulm said.

Police are still investigating the fire and are asking anyone with information to come forward.

Rodriguez is still in Utah, behind bars on a $1 million bond.

Police say he is going to be extradited to Iowa where he faces murder and arson charges.