DENVER — A Denver judge on Tuesday denied the request to move the cases against two teens charged as an adult in a deadly arson that killed five family members back to juvenile court.
The ruling by Judge Martin Egelhoff came after a three-day hearing earlier this month where evidence was presented to determine where the case against Gavin Seymour, now 17, and Kevin Bui, also 17, should proceed.
Seymour had just turned 16 when a fire was intentionally set at a home in the 5300 block of North Truckee Street in Denver on Aug. 5, 2020. That fire killed five members of a Senegalese family. Bui had turned 16 in February of that year.
They included 29-year-old Djibril Diol and 23-year-old Adja Diol, as well as their 2-year-old daughter Khadija. Djibril’s sister Hassan Diol, 25, and her infant daughter, Hawa Baye, also lost their lives. Two adults and a child escaped by jumping out a window, according to police.
In documents unsealed this week, those family members reported that they woke up to the smoke alarm going off. The father said that he opened their bedroom door and saw thick smoke so immediately shut the door and immediately went to the window, the document says. He jumped out followed by his wife, the document says.
Their daughter jumped next and the man caught her, according to the warrant. The father then attempted to get into the home to help those still inside, but was unable to get the key code to work on the front door or the inside garage door, the document says.
The first officer who arrived at the scene said he saw that man trying to use the keypad to open the door and made a decision to kick the front door in, the warrant says.
That officer said he was pushed back by the extreme heat but was able to see a small body about three feet inside the door, the document says. The officer said he attempted to remove the victim from the home, but could not due to the heat and fire and noted it was obvious the person was no longer alive.
Bui, Seymour and another teen who was 15 at the time of the fire were all arrested in January 2021.Bui and Seymour were charged as adults.
According to the arrest warrant for Bui, a phone believed to be used by him was accessing cell phone sites in the area of the fire around 1:55 a.m. on Aug. 5. The phone left that area around 2:40 a.m. That time frame also matched up with the suspect vehicle that was seen around the crime scene.
Also on Tuesday, the arrest warrants for both Seymour and Bui were unsealed.
In November 2021, prosecutors laid out evidence at a preliminary hearing for Bui and Seymour, who were arrested on Jan. 27 2021 in connection with the fire. After the eight-hour hearing, Egelhoff found probable cause on all counts and denied bail to the two defendants.
In his ruling Tuesday, Egelhoff noted that evidence at that preliminary hearing established that Seymour and his co-participants brought gas to the home, spread it on interior walls, and ignited the gasoline fumes.
The accelerant was found near the back door of the home, the warrant says.
He said the suspects "specifically targeted" the occupants or residents of 5312 N. Truckee St. for "revenge and retribution," allegedly in response to the robbery of a cellphone.
Testimony from a prior hearing indicates the teens did not research who lived at the home and were not aware until there was news coverage of the fire that the victims were not the intended targets.
Egelhoff said they put "considerable thought" into the crime, conducted research ahead of it, and discussed the alleged grievance on social media.
Egelhoff said that the fact that Seymour had no prior criminal history weighed in favor of moving the case to juvenile court. He also noted that the ability for Seymour to be rehabilitated was high.
However, he ultimately said a crime of this gravity should have a "commensurate punishment." Egelhoff said in his ruling that in his 23 nearly years as a judicial officer he had "not witnessed a case of such gravity, consequence, and loss" like this one.
He also wrote about the case having "immense, far-reaching, and indescribable impacts" for the survivors, family members and members of the Senegalese community.
Seymour is back in court on March 24 at 1:30 p.m. for an arraignment hearing. Bui is in court on March 31 at 1:30 p.m. Each faces more than 60 counts including first-degree murder and arson.
A third teen, who was 15 at the time of the fire, is charged in juvenile court.
You can read the judge's ruling below regarding his decision not to move Bui's case to juvenile court.
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