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Suspect in fire that killed four is held without bail

Tuesday, June 11, 2013
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— The man facing federal charges in the May 2 fire that killed a father and three children has been ordered held without bail to await trial.

Robert A. Butler, 27, of Saratoga Springs, had been scheduled to appear this afternoon in U.S. District Court in Albany for a hearing to determine his bail status, if any.

Instead, Butler’s court-appointed attorney last week filed papers waiving today’s detention hearing, writing that Butler was “in no position to oppose the government’s request” to hold him pending trial.

He has been held without bail since his arrest the day of the fire and was formally charged in U.S. District Court last week with one count of arson causing death.

Assistant federal public defender Timothy E. Austin did not reference the possible sentence in his filing, but, if convicted, Butler faces the possibility of the death penalty or up to life in prison without parole. Prosecutors have not said whether they intend to seek death.

Killed in the May 2 fire at 438 Hulett St. were father David Terry, 32, and children Layah Terry, 3, Michael Terry, 2, and Donavan Duell, 11 months.

The only child to survive was 5-year-old Safyre Terry, a girl described as her father’s princess. She remains under sedation at Westchester Medical Center, family said last week, though she has begun to breathe on her own.

Butler is accused of setting fire to the stairwell leading to the second-floor apartment as part of an ongoing argument with David Terry that began days earlier, when Terry threw him out of the house for hitting the mother of the children, Jennica Duell.

In response to the defense’s motion waiving the detention hearing and a preliminary hearing, U.S. Magistrate Judge Christian Hummel issued a written order granting the prosecution’s request to have Butler held without bail pending trial.

 
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