Safyre Terry’s mother pleads guilty to lying about fire that killed her family

Jennica Duell

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Three years ago a deadly Hulett Street fire killed three children and sent the wrong man to jail. It’s the same fire that left young Safyre Terry, our local super survivor, badly burned.

While to date no one has been charged for causing the fire, on Monday her mother Jennica Duell was due in federal court, accused of lying about what happened that night.

Duell wiped tears from her eyes as she pleaded guilty to three of the five counts in this indictment. She also admitted she lied to a federal grand jury. She faces up to 15 years in prison and $750,000 in fines.

Prosecutors say back in 2013, the 28-year-old gave the grand jury an account of where she was the night of the deadly fire. Counts two three and four include her question and answer explaining in detail who she was with, who bought the gasoline, who set the house on fire and why.

But one year later she retracted those statements claiming she was never in Schenectady that night to begin with.

Prosecutors say they also have an ample amount of evidence against her.

Duell has a criminal history and also known to have mental health issues, once admitting to a probation officer that she put a kitten in a microwave when she was a teenager.

Those lies you may remember put Robert Butler behind bars, charged with the arson for some nine months before he was declared innocent.

Her defense attorney says at the end of the day there was no question that Jennica said two different things at two different times in front of the grand jury.

“Because of that she was guilty of what we would call inconsistent common perjury where you say two things. So that’s what she plead guilty to, that’s all she plead guilty to and quite frankly that’s all she’s guilty of,” said Cheryl Coleman, defense attorney.

Coleman went on to say that she knew exactly why her client told two different versions to the grand jury and that’s something that will all come out after sentencing. That’s set for September 12.


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