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Justice For Dave Terry Family -Vigil

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Published on Feb 13, 2014

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A vigil to remember the victims of the Hulett Street fire in Schenectady took place Wednesday night.

A grieving family made the plea for the person, or persons, responsible, to come forward. The family hopes justice will be served nine months after a horrific fire that killed four people and seriously injured a fifth.

Liz Dolder said she's David Terry's sister. The 32-year-old man, along with his children, 3-year-old Layah, 2-year-old Michael and 11-month-old Donavan Duell died inside 438 Hulett Street. Authorities confirmed 5-year-old Sa'fyre suffered burns to 75-percent of her body.

"That was all the family I had. That I could call my own, that was stolen from us. And somebody out there knows the truth. Somebody has a little tidbit of information that needs to come forward," said Dolder.

Shirley Armour, who said she is Terry's aunt, explained that the last few days have been tough after charges were dropped against the man originally believed to have set the deadly fire. Robert Butler was arrested one day after the fire, but on Friday the U.S. Attorney's Office dismissed the counts against him.

Dolder and Armour gathered with more than two dozen others. Family members, friends and neighbors came together in the empty lot where the home once stood. They hoped to remind the community that authorities announced a reward of up to $12,000 for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person who authorities say intentionally set the fire. Dolder said investigators are doing the best they can.

"They have to sift through a lot of garbage, a lot of garbage. A lot of lies," said Dolder.

Authorities say surveillance video shows a different man in the area of the home at the time of the fire, but Butler could still face charges as the investigation continues.
SCHENECTADY — David Terry would give the shirt off his back to help his friends and family.
Attached at his hip was 5-year-old Sa'fyre, the 32-year-old man's eldest daughter, the light of his life ever since he lost his first child just minutes after she was born. Terry's 3-year-old daughter Layah was smart for her age, able to recite the alphabet when she was just 18 months old. His 2-year-old son Michael was a ball of energy, an attribute that garnered him the nickname "the little Energizer Bunny." And while 11-month-old Donavan Duell was not related to Terry by blood, he loved him like one of his own.

The lives of Terry and four of his children ended in a fire that was deliberately set at his second-floor apartment at 438 Hulett St. on May 2. Sa'fyre was the only one of the five to survive, suffering burns on three-quarters of her small body.

Liz Dolder, Terry's sister by adoption, struggles daily in dealing with the deaths. But her grief and pain remains acute, especially because the individual who set the fire remains free.

"There's a monster getting away with this," Dolder said Wednesday evening, standing in the cold on the vacant, snow-covered lot where her brother's apartment once stood. "Our streets aren't safe. Our kids aren't safe."

Just five days earlier, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Albany declined to prosecute a Saratoga Springs man initially charged with setting the fire. Robert A. Butler, 27, was released from custody Friday after prosecutors declined to pursue charges against him.


Officials with the federal Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives are also trying to coax information, offering up to $10,000 for information related to the blaze that leads to a conviction. Schenectady police and the county's Arson Task Force are offering an additional $1,500 and $500 in rewards, respectively


Butler spent nine months in jail after being accused of arson — a charge that could have brought him the death penalty in federal court. But his attorneys say "photographic and documentary" evidence helped them get the charge against him dropped.

Federal prosecutors haven't indicated what led to the charges being dropped. They indicated the gravity of the crime and the potential punishments coupled with the "unusual and complex facts" necessitated further investigation.

The case against Butler was dismissed without prejudice, meaning prosecutors can still pursue charges against him. Dolder declined to discuss her knowledge of the situation, fearing it could jeopardize the case as police and federal agents sort through the convoluted information they've been given.


Dolder said she also wanted to calm some of the outrage roiling after Butler's release. She said social media exploded with fury from Terry's supporters, anger that she feared could lead to street justice. She wouldn't offer an opinion on Butler, saying only that she wants the arsonist caught and convicted.

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