Police: Man Started Home on Fire, Threatened to Kill Woman

DES MOINES, Iowa – A Des Moines man is being held in the Polk County Jail after police say he threatened to kill a woman and tried to burn down a home.

Thirty-eight-year-old Antonio Starks faces several charges for the incident including first degree arson, assault causing bodily injury, assault domestic abuse, and violation of a no contact order.

Stark’s wife’s sister, Nicole Frye, said her sister called her over because Stark was drunk and getting aggressive.

"My thoughts were to just protect my sister because I knew what he had done to her in the past," Frye said.

Frye said Starks went to jail in 2013 for assaulting his wife, but they had recently worked things out and the family didn’t realize a no contact order was still in place.

"She had thought it had dropped or been dismissed back in 2014, which was not the case which we found out early this morning. The cops said that order was never dismissed," Frye said.

Police were called to 701 35th Street around 1:15 a.m. Monday on a report that Starks was assaulting a woman.

Before police arrived Frye said Starks tried tried to choke her when she was trying to protect her sister.

"My other niece’s boyfriend had gotten her away from him and she took off running and Antonio chased her up alongside the house and my car was up there so I unlocked it and told her to get in and I locked the door. I came up to my car and Antonio had just gotten to the drivers side and he used his elbow and broke out my back window on the drivers side and he tried to grab for my sister and I got between him and the car so my sister could try to crawl out the other door. That’s where he grabbed me by the throat to the point where I couldn’t breathe and I think it was Cato that got him off of me and I was falling at that point and I went to stand back up and he grabbed me again and he said don’t make me kill you, you know I’ll do it and he said it twice," Frye said.

While officers were still on the way, they learned Starks was pouring gasoline in the kitchen and threatening to burn the house down.

"The initial call came from a child within the home saying that her stepfather was assaulting her mom. As the officers arrived there, they did find that the majority of the people were out of the house, they did say that the suspect in the assault at that time was pouring gasoline around the home in an attempt to set the house on fire," Sgt. Paul Parizek said.

Police say Starks ran at them and they were able to detain him.

"The officers tried telling him to come on out of the home. He ignored them and ran up the stairs and as the officers went in to get him, he threw the gas can at them. He did manage to start the fire upstairs. Officers could see the glow of the fire and realized they needed to get him out of the house also.  He fought with them. He assaulted the officers. The officers did deploy their taser but it seems like it was largely ineffective at that time. He was all amped up," Parizek said.


Officers were able to get everyone out of the home safely and the Des Moines Fire Department arrived quickly to extinguish the flames. Firefighters were able to keep the fire from spreading to the rest of the home.

Frye said the American Red Cross helped the family get a hotel room, but their landlord has asked them to move out of the house so they are currently searching for something more permanent.