BILLINGS, Mont. – A Billings man who said he was "drinking and being stupid" when he and a co-defendant caused a trailer fire that killed four people has been sentenced to 25 years in prison.
District Judge Russell Fagg sentenced Zaccary John Kern on Wednesday to 35 years in prison with 10 years suspended.
Kern, 22, pleaded guilty in February to four counts of negligent homicide by accountability for the April 2013 fire that killed Amber-Marie Beyers, 33; Donovan Fogle, 25; Brandi Hansen Moats, 25; and Troy Saylor, 28, The Billings Gazette (http://bit.ly/1ms5izZ) reported.
Kern has said he set fire to a napkin at Fogle's trailer house early on April 18, 2013, and let it burn out. Then Robert Bottenhagen set fire to an apron and swung the burning cloth around, setting fire to the kitchen counter, Kern said.
Kern said he and Bottenhagen ran out of the house without calling 911 or trying to awaken the victims.
"I know that me panicking and my lack of judgment that night has changed your lives forever, and I'm extremely sorry," Kern told the families of the victims. "I'm not going to ask for your forgiveness because I don't expect that from you."
Yellowstone County Sheriff's Detective Frank Fritz testified Wednesday that had Kern or Bottingham taken to time to wake the four victims, there would have been time for everyone to get out safely.
"The impact of this crime is devastating," said Betty Beyers, whose daughter had three children. "It will never end."
Jesse Saylor, brother of victim Troy Saylor and cousin to Fogle, called Kern and Bottenhagen "two foolish murderers."
Fagg said that while Kern pleaded guilty, the suffering caused by the fire is "unaccountable."
"Of course, probably the worst part is you orphaned eight children," said the judge, who followed the plea agreement in the case.
Bottenhagen, 22, has pleaded guilty to four counts of negligent homicide and is to be sentenced on July 1. His plea agreement calls for a 60-year term.
Information from: The Billings Gazette, http://www.billingsgazette.com