Safyre Terry’s biological mother is now facing a lot more time in custody if she is convicted of lying to the federal grand jury investigating the 2013 Schenectady fire that maimed Safyre and killed three of her other children.
Federal prosecutors announced Friday that they’ve obtained a new indictment against Jennica Duell, one that essentially breaks up the previous one-count perjury charge filed against her into five separate counts.
Duell, 28, of Schenectady, previously faced a maximum of five years in prison if convicted under her original indictment. She now faces possible consecutive sentences, for a total of 25 years if convicted.
Duell has been in custody since her November 2014 arrest on her first indictment. Her trial remains scheduled for next month.
Federal prosecutors did not give a reason why they split up Duell’s indictment, but prosecutors last month won consecutive five-year sentences for Edward Leon. Leon was the other person indicted for lying to the grand jury.
Duell’s attorney, Cheryl Coleman, could not be reached for comment Friday.
The two were first indicted in 2014, more than a year after the May 2, 2013 blaze at 438 Hulett St. that killed David Terry, 32, his children Layah, 3, Michael, 2, and Donavan Duell, 11 months. Safyre, found by firefighters in her father’s arms, suffered severe injuries and underwent a long recovery that continues.
The arson remains unsolved and a reward of up to $40,000 continues to be offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever is responsible for the fire.
Duell was the mother of the three children killed, as well as the biological mother of Safyre.
Authorities have said Duell’s grand jury testimony first pointed to Robert A. Butler, then 27, as the arsonist.
Butler spent nine months in federal custody on a federal charge of arson resulting in death, accused of starting the deadly blaze.
Duell initially gave a detailed account in which she described being with Butler when she said he set the fire. Authorities freed him in February 2014 after Duell recanted her testimony against Butler and other evidence surfaced.
Duell’s attorneys have argued that she fabricated her initial account against Butler under pressure from authorities.
Duell is accused of lying to the grand jury by essentially giving separate accounts that contradicted each other.
The initial indictment lumped all her alleged contradictory statements into one count. The new indictment divides those into five sections, for five separate counts.
She is accused of lying about the nature of her relationships with David Terry and Butler; how she, Butler and others supposedly got from Saratoga Springs to Schenectady that morning; got gasoline; how the fire started and by whom; and supposed discussion of a cover story.
Duell is to be arraigned on the new indictment Tuesday.
The federal jury that heard Leon’s perjury case found that Leon was in fact in Schenectady the morning of the fire and that he sent David Terry anonymous threatening messages in the days and weeks leading up to the blaze.
According to a recorded interrogation played at his trial, Leon admitted to authorities that he traveled to the city to find Terry’s residence with the intent of confronting him over a woman in common. Terry dated Leon’s former girlfriend.
Leon also admitted during the interrogation to being in front of the Hulett Street house just before neighbors reported the fire. He said he was standing across the street and sawg the blaze.
Despite his admissions, Leon denies setting the fire.