Heartbroken family members reacted with disbelief Friday after a judge sentenced a teenager to six years in prison for setting an early morning house fire that killed a couple a few hours before they were to move into an assisted-living facility.
Boyd Haynes, 87, and Doris Haynes, 86, died of smoke inhalation on July 13, 2011.
The couple's only son and two of their grandchildren remembered them in court as loving people of high moral character who taught values and ethics to three generations of offspring.
Doris Haynes passed the time baking cookies; Boyd Haynes liked to work in the garage building Adirondak chairs.
Terry Haynes sought the maximum sentence for Tristan Owen, 17, who was convicted in February of two counts of first-degree manslaughter and one count of first-degree arson.
“My father literally crawled on his hands and knees trying to get to my mother,” Haynes said. “It's amazing to me that somebody can wreak that much havoc on a family and hundreds and hundreds of friends and get away with what I consider an extremely light sentence.”
A jury recommended four years in prison for each of the manslaughter charges and 10 years for the arson charge.
District Judge Kenneth Watson suspended two years of the panel's recommended sentences for manslaughter. The judge did not consider the jury's sentence for the arson conviction because it was the underlying felony in the case and not applicable, prosecutors said.
With credit for time served, Owen could be released in less than four years.
Watson denied a defense request to suspend the entire sentence and place Owen in a juvenile facility, telling the defendant and his attorney they had plenty of opportunities to resolve the case before trial.
“The only reason this case wasn't worked out was because you wouldn't take responsibility for your actions,” the judge told Owen.
Owen did offer a long-awaited apology, but it mattered little to three generations of family members in attendance.
“He did not show remorse to my family. He showed remorse to the judge,” Terry Haynes said. “He has never shown one ounce of remorse during the entire trial.”
Prosecutors alleged Owen, then 15, started a fire in a trash container outside the couple's garage, which spread to the structure.
Neither arson investigator who testified, however, could link burned pajama pants found on the defendant's property and remnants of two Molotov cocktails found in front of his house with the trash can fire.
Defense attorney Francis Courbois argued Friday as he did at trial that prosecutors rushed to judgment and did not have any evidence linking Owen to the fatal fire.
“He didn't light this house on fire,” Courbois said. “He's immensely remorseful for what happened.”
“There is no evidence of remorse in this case,” Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Chance told the judge.