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Teen gets 40 years in prison for Denver house fire that killed 5 from Senegal

DENVER (AP) — One of three teenagers charged with starting a Denver house fire that killed five people — apparently out of revenge for a stolen cellphone that was mistakenly traced to the home — was sentenced Friday to 40 years in prison.

Gavin Seymour, 19, pleaded guilty in January to one count of second-degree murder for his role in the Aug. 5, 2020, fire that killed five members of a Senegalese family. Denver District Court Judge Karen Brody sentenced him to the maximum possible term he faced, The Denver Post reported.

“This is a tragedy that is, I’m sure for everyone involved, incomprehensible,” Brody said. “There was a loss of the most innocent of lives.”

Seymour and two other teenagers — Kevin Bui and Dillon Siebert — were charged with setting the fire in the middle of the night, killing family members Djibril Diol, 29; Adja Diol, 23; Khadija Diol, 1; Hassan Diol, 25; and 6-month-old Hawa Baye. Three other people escaped by jumping from the second floor of the home.

Siebert, who was 14 at the time of the fire, was 17 when he was sentenced in February 2023 to three years in juvenile detention and seven years in a state prison program for young inmates. Seymour and Bui, who is accused of being the ringleader, were both 16 at the time of the fire. The case against Bui, who faces multiple counts of first-degree murder, is still pending.

The investigation of the fire dragged on for months without any leads. Fears that the blaze had been a hate crime led many Senegalese immigrants to install security cameras at their homes in case they could also be targeted.

“Even if you kill five sheep or goats, you should get a maximum sentence,” relative Hanady Diol told the court Friday through a translator over the phone from Senegal. “This person here, they are talking about 40 or 30 years. That just means there is no justice there. There is no judging that the people who died are human beings.”

The boys were identified as suspects after police obtained a search warrant asking Google for which accounts had searched the home’s address within 15 days of the fire.

Bui told investigators he had been robbed the month before the fire while trying to buy a gun and had traced his iPhone to the home using an app, court records said. He admitted setting the fire, only to find out the next day through news coverage that the victims were not the people who robbed him, according to police.

Attorneys for Seymour and Bui challenged the search warrant, but the Colorado Supreme Court upheld the search for this case. Bui is next due in court on March 21, according to The Denver Post.

Seymour apologized in court Friday for his role in the fire.

“If I could go back and prevent all this I would,” he said. “There is not a moment that goes by that I don’t feel extreme guilt and remorse for my actions. … I want to say how truly sorry I am to the family members and community for all the harm I’ve done.”

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