Perjury convict in 2013 Schenectady arson that killed four, injured Safyre Terry, released; Another set to be

Edward Leon in custody after his November 2014 perjury arrest

Edward Leon in custody after his November 2014 perjury arrest

ALBANY – Edward Leon, convicted of two counts of perjury in the investigation into the 2013 fatal Schenectady arson fire that killed four and severely injured Safyre Terry was released from his sentence in the case this past week, authorities said.

Jennica Duell, Safyre’s biological mother who was sent to prison on her own related perjury counts in the case is set to be formally released herself in June, records show.

Leon, who was a St. Johnsville resident and is now 49, was sentenced in March 2016 to 10 years in federal prison in a case where the judge called Leon “despicable” at sentencing and said he wished he could have sentenced Leon to more.

With his release, he is now in three years of supervised release, which was also imposed at his sentencing.

Leon was convicted after trial on two counts of perjury, for lying to the grand jury investigating the 2013 Hulett Street arson fire that killed a father, three children and severely injured then-5-year-old Safyre Terry.

A federal jury in November 2015 convicted Leon of two perjury counts, finding he lied about his whereabouts the morning of the fire and lied about an anonymous cellphone he used to send threatening messages to David Terry, the father killed in the fire.

Now more than nine years later, no one has been prosecuted for setting the fire — Leon has denied involvement. Combined rewards of up to $40,000 have been offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever is responsible.

Evidence presented at Leon’s perjury trial painted him as an obsessed ex-boyfriend who used an anonymous cellphone to send threatening messages to his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend, Terry, in the weeks leading up to the blaze.

Leon was formally released from Bureau of Prisons custody Tuesday, a federal prisons official confirmed Friday. In preparation for his release, he was moved Jan. 31 to community confinement, the official said.

Leon had been in custody since his November 2014 arrest. His release came with the First Step Act, the official said. The act was signed in December 2018.

The federal official indicated generally that an inmate’s terms may be reduced through multiple factors, including good conduct time and up to 12 months off through completion of a Residential Drug Abuse Program. Leon’s exact release calculation was not available.

Duell pleaded guilty herself to three counts of perjury related to the investigation. Her counts related to statements she gave that bolstered charges against another man related to the fire, Robert Butler. 

Butler was held for nine months before being released, after attention fell on Edward Leon. Butler later sued investigators, but that suit was dismissed in early 2020.

Duell, now 34, was accused of lying about the nature of her relationships with David Terry and Butler and how she, Butler and others supposedly got from Saratoga Springs to Schenectady the morning of the fire. She also was accused of lying about buying gasoline, about how the fire started and who started it.

The judge in her case sentenced her to 11 years, 3 months in prison, saying he was certain her lies “forestalled the discovery of the truth.”

Duell, who herself has been in custody since her own November 2014 arrest, was transferred to community confinement Feb. 23 ahead of her scheduled June 23 release from prisons custody, the federal prison official said.

Duell’s release came through the First Step Act and the Residential Drug Abuse Program, according to the official.

She also is to be monitored under three years of supervised release as part of her initial sentence.

Others were also sent to prison for related perjuries in the case. One man, Bryan Fish, now 27, remains in custody on a nine-year term on two perjury pleas. He’s been incarcerated since his October 2016 arrest. Another man, Richard Ramsey, was sentenced to more than seven years in his own perjury pleas. He appears to have been released to three years of supervision in January.

The May 2, 2013, arson at 438 Hulett St. killed David Terry, 32, and his children Layah, 3, Michael, 2, and Donavan Duell, 11 months.

Safyre Terry is now 14 years old. The then-5-year-old Safyre was found by firefighters in her father’s arms. She suffered severe injuries in the fire and has been in the care of her aunt Liz Dolder – David Terry’s sister – since. Safyre became the focus of a worldwide Christmas card project in December 2015.

Contacted Friday about the releases and impending releases in the perjury cases, Liz Dolder declined to comment.

Categories: Fulton Montgomery Schoharie, News, Schenectady, Schenectady County

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