BARRE — The owners of the Sundara Day Spa are accused of intentionally setting the business on fire.
Kristopher Kirby, 47, and Lesilee Kirby, 48, both of East Montpelier, each pleaded not guilty Thursday in Washington County criminal court in Barre to a felony count of first-degree arson. If convicted, they each face a maximum sentence of 10 years and a minimum of two years in prison. They were both ordered held on $5,000 bail.
Detective Sgt. Todd Ambroz, of the Vermont State Police, said in his affidavit fire crews responded to the business on Route 302 Sunday. Ambroz said a firefighter got inside the business and saw flames coming from the area where the cash register is located. The firefighter went down a hall and found more flames inside a room.
Ambroz said once most of the fire was put out the firefighter saw a partially burned gasoline container and could smell an overwhelming scent of gas. He said a family of four lived in an apartment above the business, including a 7-year-old child and a 2-year-old child.
Ambroz said while investigating the scene he saw what appeared to be a burned trail of gas leading from the cash register, down the hallway and to the massage room where the gas can was located.
Ambroz then spoke with the man who lived above the business who reported the family was in the apartment when he heard what sounded like an explosion and the building shook. He told Ambroz he went downstairs to see what was going on and saw smoke in the stairwell. The man told Ambroz he saw the flames from the fire and then called 911.
Ambroz said he spoke to the Kirbys who were parked outside in their car. He said they told him they did not store gasoline inside the business and didn’t know where the gas can had come from. He asked the couple if there were any employees who may have been upset with the business and they said a woman had recently left the company saying it was a hostile work environment, according to court records. They told Ambroz the former employee still had a key to the business and the room where the gas can was located was the same room she used to work in.
Ambroz said police obtained surveillance footage from Twin City Family Fun Center, which is next door to the day spa. He said the footage showed a male leaving from a side door at the business with the fire already going. The footage then shows the male going behind the business and Ambroz said police found footprints in the snow behind the building. He said the footprints stopped at the edge of the Price Chopper parking lot which is about a quarter of a mile from the business.
Ambroz said the Kirbys own a Honda Ridgeline, according to records from the Department of Motor Vehicles. He said surveillance footage from the supermarket showed a male in a Honda Ridgeline drive into the parking lot at about 5:45 p.m. He then walks towards the day spa and comes back to the parking lot at about 7 p.m.
Ambroz said police spoke to Lesilee Kirby Thursday and she reported the business had not been doing well and she had suggested filing for bankruptcy. She told police her husband didn’t want to file, and a few weeks back they were joking about burning the place down, but the jokes started to become more serious.
Lesilee Kirby told police she told her husband what to do so that he couldn’t get caught for starting the fire, but she didn’t think he would actually go through with it. She said her husband didn’t think there was anyone in the apartment upstairs when he set the fire.