AUSTIN (KXAN) — A man was arrested and charged with murder and arson after a Sunday night fire at a southeast Austin home, Austin Police said in a release Tuesday.

According to APD, 911 got a call at 10:53 p.m. Sunday about someone possibly trapped in a house that was on fire in the 9000 block of Meridian Oaks Lane. That is just east of Interstate 35 and west of Slaughter Lane.

Austin firefighters found John Ryan Kern, 36, with apparent stab wounds inside the burning home. Kern died a short time later, APD said.

During the investigation, APD determined Kern’s roommate stabbed him and tried “to burn down the house to destroy evidence,” APD said in the release.

Zachary Salinas, 31, was booked into Travis County jail on murder, arson and tampering with evidence charges, APD said.

Another person was inside of the home and reported the fire, APD said.

This case is being considered Austin’s 18th homicide of 2023.

If you have information, you should contact the Austin Police Department at 512-974-TIPS. You can submit your tip anonymously through the Capital Area Crime Stoppers Program by visiting or calling 512-472-8477.

Neighbors react

Austin Fire Department arson investigators and APD homicide detectives spoke with witnesses overnight.

Neighbors are shaken up, but not surprised where this incident happened. They told KXAN police have been called out to the home on multiple times over the past couple of months.

According to public records, the person who lives in the home that’s at the center of the homicide investigation is a registered sex offender.

“When you see the crime scene tape and multiple cop cars and crime scene vehicles, it’s not the best feeling,” Lance Pufahl said.

Adam Mendel said he’s lived in the neighborhood for four years. What happened doesn’t sit well with him.

“I have a one-year-old and a two-year-old… little girls,” Mendel said.

Mendel lives just a few homes down from where this homicide investigation is now happening. And so does Pufahl.

“That house, there’s just like a weird vibe to it,” Pufahl said. “People have stories of him [the neighbor who lives there] yelling at them through his front porch. Just last week, he was staring at me really weird when we walked by with my dog.”

According to public records, the man who owns the home got out of jail in 2009. He was in custody for aggravated sexual assault of a 10-year-old and was put on probation for 10 years.

Police haven’t said whether he was home at the time, or if he was involved. However, they are working to uncover details surrounding the homicide.

“I just would love to have kind of peace of mind that this was an isolated thing,” Pufahl said.