British Columbia

B.C. man guilty of first-degree murder in fire that killed 5

A man accused of setting a house fire in 2006 that killed five people, including three young children, was found guilty of first-degree murder Sunday.

Judge calls crime "depraved and vile"

A man accused of setting a house fire in 2006 that killed five people, including three young children, was found guilty of first-degree murder Sunday.

A jury of nine men and three women found Nathan Fry, 20, guilty of five counts of first-degree murder.

"In the matter of a few minutes, you caused the deaths of five victims, five people against whom you had no grudge whatsoever," B.C. Supreme Court Justice Ian Pitfield told Fry.

Calling the crime "depraved and vile," he sentenced Nathan Fry, 20, to 25 years in prison without parole Sunday.

Adela Etibako, 39, and three of her children: Edita, 12, Benedicta, 9, and Stephane, 8, died in the May 15, 2006 blaze. Bolingo Etibako's girlfriend, Ashley Singh, 17, also died.

Bolingo, the sole survivor of the fire, leapt out an upper-floor window and suffered severe burns.

Fry was also convicted of attempted murder in the case of Bolingo Etibako, who spent months in hospital after the fire.

Prosecutors alleged Fry set the blaze to get back at Bolingo Etibako, then 16, for implicating him in two stabbings earlier that year.

"You've left Mr. Bolingo Etibako in a situation where he's going to have to live with the memory of this terrible night," Pitfield said.

Fry admitted setting blaze to undercover officers

During the four-week B.C. Supreme Court trial, the jury heard about an elaborate, months-long police undercover operation built around an effort to convince Fry he was a rising star in a national criminal organization.

In a videotape made by undercover police and shown in court, Fry said he bought fuel from a gas station, broke a window at the Etibako home, dumped the gasoline and used a torch to ignite the blaze.

Fry, 20, testified he did not set the blaze and that he was ripping off a marijuana grow operation at the time.

Philip Riddell, Fry's lawyer, told jurors his client admitted setting the fire to undercover police posing as criminals because he dreamed of pursing a life of crime and saw himself as a big shot.

Riddell said outside court Sunday it's too early to consider an appeal.

"Normally you don't even start thinking about those things until the emotions of the situation have calmed down," he said.

"Mr. Fry, of course, is disappointed with the result," Riddell said. "Other decisions in terms of our options will be considered at a later date."

Crown prosecutor Kerr Clark said the jury made the right decision.

"There's no pleasure that comes from these things," Clark said. "It's always sad to see to see a young man spend the rest of his life in this manner, but I also think of the Etibako family — what they've been through."

Fire's sole survivor broke down at trial

In the first week of the trial, Bolingo Etibako broke into tears while telling the jury of waking up in hospital following the fire.

He testified that he had gone to church with his mom on the day before the fire. It was Mother's Day, and he had bought her a necklace and bracelet.

He said his girlfriend, Ashley Singh, stayed over that night to celebrate their 11-month anniversary.

Etibako said Singh woke him during the night, saying she thought she'd heard a noise. Hearing nothing more, they went back to sleep.

He said he awoke again to find the family's townhouse on fire but couldn't open the front or back doors and leapt out the window after Singh fell and he couldn't help her.

Etibako said he ran to a restaurant across the street, where patrons called 911.

In the back of the ambulance, he said he told a paramedic the names of his family members who were left inside the house.

"As soon as I said those names, the house blew up," he said.