BARRE — The victim of the Sundara Day Spa fire says the owners of the spa should be facing attempted murder charges for intentionally setting the business on fire while a family of four was living upstairs.
Kristopher Kirby, 47, and Lesilee Kirby, 48, both of East Montpelier, each pleaded not guilty last month 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.
Lesilee Kirby was in court Monday for a motion hearing where her 24-hour curfew was reduced to allow her out in the community from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. so she can run errands.
During the hearing, Washington County State’s Attorney Rory Thibault said he’s filed four additional counts of misdemeanor reckless endangerment for Kristopher Kirby. He has not been arraigned on those charges.
Robert Herdling was in attendance for the hearing. Herdling was living in the apartment above the spa with his girlfriend and two children when police said Kristopher Kirby set the Berlin business on fire Dec. 2.
Herdling told police the family was in the apartment when he heard what sounded like an explosion and the building shook. He told police he went downstairs to see what was going on and saw smoke in the stairwell. Herdling saw the flames from the fire and then called 911.
Police said surveillance footage from Twin City Family Fun Center, which is next door to the day spa, showed Kristopher Kirby leaving from a side door at the business with the fire already going. The footage then shows him going behind the business and police found footprints in the snow behind the building.
Lesilee Kirby told police 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.
Herdling said the Kirbys should be facing attempted murder charges.
“We have one car, our only car was at the house. Our lights were on. It was almost 7 p.m. on a Sunday. My kids got school in the morning. … (Kristopher Kirby) walked right by our car. He saw it,” he said.
Herdling said his family now has to stay with his girlfriend’s family. He said most of his belongings stink from the fire.
“If we were sleeping, who knows if we would have woken up,” he said.
Thibault said he’s aware of the victims’ concerns, but there isn’t any information from the incident showing Kristopher Kirby set the fire with the intention of killing the family in the apartment.
“His actions may display recklessness and a wanton disregard for their safety, but at this point we’re not prepared to (charge him with attempted murder). That being said, the state is free to amend charges so as additional information becomes available we’ll see where the discovery process and depositions go throughout the case,” Thibault said.
He said his office has received numerous calls from former customers of the spa looking to get reimbursed for gift certificates and appointments they paid for that are no longer usable.