One year ago this morning, someone intentionally set fire to a Hulett Street apartment house. A family — a father and his children — was nearly wiped out.
Only a daughter, then-5-year-old Sa’fyre Terry survived, suffering severe burns.
Sa’fyre’s father, David Terry, and her three siblings, Layah, 3, Michael, 2, and Donavan Duell, 11 months, all perished.
Tonight, family and friends of those killed will gather at the fire scene to remember the lives lost. The vigil also aims to make it known that information is still needed to bring whoever set the fire to justice.
The vigil is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the vacant lot that was 438 Hulett St.
It has been 12 months of starts and stops in the investigation.
It has also been 12 months of healing for young Sa’fyre. The girl, family members have said, has made significant progress in her recovery.
The investigation into the fire suffered a setback in February, when the man initially charged with the horrific crime was set free. That came, sources have said, after another suspect emerged.
The investigation has continued since then, but no new charges have been filed. Authorities have offered rewards for information leading to a conviction of whoever set the blaze.
The rewards total $12,000 — $10,000 put up by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, $1,500 from the Schenectady police and another $500 from the county’s Arson Task Force.
Those rewards remain in effect.
After the charges against the original suspect were dropped, family and friends held another vigil, asking the public for help in solving the case.
That vigil drew 50 supporters to the site.
The original suspect, 27-year-old Robert A. Butler, spent nine months in jail on federal charges that could have brought the death penalty had he been convicted.
Butler was initially suspected of setting the fire because Terry had kicked him out of the house.
The original criminal complaint accused him of taking a drug-fueled trip to Schenectady with friends, where they purchased gasoline that was used to light the staircase of the home on fire.
He was freed after “photographic and documentary” evidence came to light, his attorneys said.
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.