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Schenectady vigil marks fatal fire anniversary

Updated: 05/03/2014 4:22 PM
Created: 05/02/2014 11:59 PM WNYT.com
By: Dan Levy

SCHENECTADY - It's the kind of an anniversary no one wants to be a part of, but on Friday night in Schenectady about a hundred people showed up.

Those people showed up to honor the lives of four family members -- a father and three children -- who died in a house fire a year ago.

One year removed from the horrible tragedy on Hamilton Hill, neighbors, friends, and family gathered still searching for something that's alluded them these past twelve months: justice.

The vacant lot at 438 Hulett Street is now considered hallowed ground. The candles, flowers, and the stuffed teddy bears there are a tribute to the family that used to live there. The photographs are heart-breaking reminders of the love they once shared.

"It's like having a wound with a scab on it every time you hear something about the case," said Liz Dolder, David Terry's sister. "It just picks away the scab. It can't totally heal."

For Dolder, the anniversary of losing her brother, David Terry, 32, along with a niece, 3-year old Layah Terry, and two nephews, 2-year old Michael Terry, and 11-month old Donavan Duell, it's like having an entire full-body scab picked off.

"It's been a horror story," Dolder says, "A horror story filled with blessings because Sa'Fyre has kept us going."

Little 5-year old Sa'Fyre was the lone survivor of the inferno that engulfed the family's two-story home on May 2, 2013.

"Our family is gone," said Shirley Armour, David Terry's aunt, "It's not like one, they took four and our other little girl is our survivor."

Sa'Fyre was badly burned and will be scarred for life, although her aunt says she's made tremendous progress in recent months and is now doing remarkably well.

"I see her (Sa'Fyre) and it kind of makes it better, but it doesn't. She's never going to be able to see her dad again," says Florence Armour, David Terry's sister.

"I wish I could just wake up and think this was a dream, but it's reality," says Maryann Armour, another sister. "I have to face the fact that my brother is gone and his kids too. I miss him a lot."

Even though authorities almost immediately labeled the fire an arson, one year later, no one is in custody. Still though family members insist they have "complete faith" in the work being done by Schenectady detectives and ATF agents.

"For who ever did this, I want them to come forward so my family can have some closure," Maryann says.

"If you're holding back information, you're just as guilty as the person that set the fire," said Dolder, "In my mind, liars and deceivers are just as guilty."

In the days following the tragedy, a suspect was arrested and charged with setting the Hulett Street fire. Those charges were later dropped and the suspect released.

At the time, federal prosecutors indicated the gravity of the crime and the potential punishments (death penalty) necessitated further investigation.

Schenectady detectives were at the vigil on Friday night keeping an eye on things.

The reward money for information leading to a conviction is up to $12,000.

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