BARRE — The second co-owner of the Sundara Day Spa has admitted to intentionally setting the business on fire exactly one year after the blaze.
Kristopher Kirby, 48, of East Montpelier, pleaded guilty Monday in Washington County criminal court to a felony count of first-degree arson. Kirby has agreed to a sentence of two to 10 years, all suspended except for 18 months to serve. The state agreed to dismiss four misdemeanor counts of reckless endangerment, per the plea agreement.
His wife Lesilee Kirby, 49, also of East Montpelier, pleaded guilty in September to a felony count of first-degree arson and a misdemeanor count of violating conditions of release. She agreed to a sentence of two to seven years, all suspended except for nine months, six of which will be served on home confinement. The state agreed to home confinement for part of her sentence because of her health issues.
The Kirbys are set to be sentenced on Jan. 2. It’s unclear if the victims in the case will give a statement on that date. Washington County State’s Attorney Rory Thibault said the victims have given statements to the court as part of the pre-sentence investigation the Department of Corrections has conducted for Lesilee Kirby’s case.
Judge Mary Morrissey told Kristopher Kirby he should expect to start his prison sentence Jan. 2.
In an affidavit, Vermont State Police Detective Sgt. Todd Ambroz said fire crews responded to the business on Route 302 on Dec. 2, 2018. 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 someone who lived above the business who reported the family was in the apartment when they heard what sounded like an explosion and the building shook. The man told Ambroz he went downstairs to see what was going on and saw smoke in the stairwell. He told Ambroz he saw the flames from the fire and then called 911.
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 man leaving from a side door at the business with the fire already going. The footage then shows the man 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 walked towards the day spa and came back to the parking lot at about 7 p.m., according to the affidavit.
Ambroz said police spoke to Lesilee Kirby 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.
For the violation of conditions of release, police said Lesilee Kirby violated her curfew by going to the Price Chopper in Berlin in January.