Northampton man pleads guilty in fatal arson spree
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) — A Northampton man charged with setting a series of fires in the city, including one that killed an elderly man and his adult son, pleaded guilty Monday to arson and reduced charges of manslaughter.
Anthony Baye, 28, entered the pleas in Hampden Superior Court as the second day of testimony in his trial was to have started. He had been charged with murder for the Dec. 27, 2009, deaths of World War II veteran Paul Yeskie Sr., 81, and his son, Paul Yeskie Jr., 39.
Baye also pleaded guilty to 15 counts of setting fires or attempting to set fires the day the Yeskies died and to 12 arson-related counts connected to other fire in 2009 and 2007. He also pleaded guilty to armed burglary and misleading police.
Prosecutors said six houses in Northampton’s Ward 3 were set on fire that Dec. 27, including the one where the Yeskies died trying to escape.
Under the plea agreement, prosecutors and defense attorneys are recommending sentences of 19 to 20 years in prison on each manslaughter conviction, to be served concurrently. Baye is to be sentenced Wednesday.
Northwestern District Attorney David E. Sullivan said in a statement he hoped resolving the case “will bring some measure of relief to the victims and the community.” The trial attorneys did not comment Monday.
Baye was arrested Jan. 4, 2010, after prosecutors said he admitted in a videotaped interview with police that he set the fires. But the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled in May 2012 the videotaped admissions couldn’t be used as evidence. Prosecutors dismissed indictments against Baye and took the case to a new grand jury, which returned new indictments on murder and arson charges in July. The trial was later moved to Springfield.
In opening statements last week, prosecution and defense attorneys said there was no direct physical evidence or eyewitness testimony linking Baye to the fires, but disagreed whether his own comments indicated his guilt. The defense said Baye was wrongly accused, and lied to police when they stopped him the night of the fires because he was afraid of being arrested for drunken driving.