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Man charged with arson in fatal Schenectady fire

Robert Butler
Robert Butler
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Updated: 5/03/2013 8:43 pm

SCHENECTADY, N.Y. - The Schenectady Police Department has arrested a Saratoga Springs man in connection to the fatal Hulett Street fire that killed three children and their father on Thursday morning.

Police have charged 27-year-old Robert Butler with first-degree arson, a felony, in connection with the fatal fire at 438 Hulett Street.

Butler was arraigned in Schenectady City Court Friday morning for a felony charge of first-degree arson. Court documents allege Butler used some form of liquid accelerant on the front staircase leading to the second floor apartment, causing the fire that quickly spread.

Police say Butler is known to the residents of the second floor, where the family lived. They will not go into further detail about that relationship, as the investigation is continuing.

Three children were killed in the blaze; 11-month-old Donovan Duell, 2-year-old Michael Terry and 3-year-old Layah Terry. Their father, 32-year-old David Terry, was also killed.

A fourth child, 5-year-old Safyre Terry, was air lifted to a burn center in Westchester after the fire. She remains in critical condition Friday.

Neighbors tell the NEWS CENTER the tragic house fire doesn't seem real. They call the family kind, compassionate and loving. A makeshift memorial has been set up outside the home.

"I can't imagine it but I'm living it. Right now, the fear them babies must have felt, it's indescribable. There is no word," said Elizabeth Dolder.

Elizabeth Dolder was David Terry's sister, a man she calls a dedicated, loving father working to turn his life around and do right by his children.

"He loved his children so much. He was a great dad, a great dad. He would have saved those babies if he could. That man had to do something. He had to have disabled my brother in some way," said Dolder.

A small makeshift memorial is now close to the home where family, friends and neighbors continue to come together and grieve. Investigators also remain at the scene searching through the debris for evidence that can help them piece together exactly what happened. Dolder tells the NEWS CENTER Butler was the ex-boyfriend of the children's mother and had recently been kicked out of the Hulett Street home by her brother.

McCracken "He was known to the residents, the exact relationship we're not willing to discuss right now," said Lt. Mark McCracken of Schenectady police.

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