Last minutes of pair who died in fire described during Baye trial
Anthony Baye waves at family as the trial started Thursday morning in Springfield. Purchase photo reprints »
SPRINGFIELD — Jurors in the Northampton arson and murder trial of Anthony Baye heard some of the last words spoken by Paul Yeskie Jr. before he and his father perished as their home burned around them Dec. 27, 2009.
In a 911 call played for the jury Friday, the first day of testimony, Paul Yeskie Jr., 39, can be heard shouting, “There’s a big fire out there on the porch! I can’t get out of here! I can’t get out of here!”
About 10 minutes after that call was placed, Paul Yeskie Jr. and his father, Paul Yeskie Sr., 81, died in their Fair Street home’s first-floor bathroom from smoke inhalation, according to coroner Dr. Andrew Sexton, who testified Friday in Hampden Superior Court.
Sexton said both men had soot lining their airways and suffered second and third-degree burns all over their bodies.
Elaine Yeskie, widow and mother of the men, delivered tearful testimony detailing how she and her roommate, Carol LaPointe, managed to escape the blaze via an exterior staircase attached to the home’s second floor.
Baye, 27, of 85 Hawley St., is on trial facing 30 counts, including two counts of murder, in connection with about 15 fires set throughout the city that night. A home on Union Street was also destroyed, as were multiple cars, and other porches and outbuildings were damaged. Six of the charges Baye faces carry life sentences.
Investigators testified Friday that the fatal fire began on the enclosed front porch of the Yeskie home.
Richard Beaupre, 37, said he returned home to Market Street after a late night at work and spotted the Union Street fire. He and two friends began driving around to get looks at the commotion in the city, during which time they spotted the fire at the Yeskie home as well.
Beaupre said the front of the house was already engulfed in flames, so his companions began pounding on neighbors’ doors to alert them to the danger.
Northampton police Officer Kenneth Kirchner was one of the first to arrive on Fair Street and said he saw flames “shooting” out the front of the house and smoke pouring from windows.
Kirchner said he could hear a male voice screaming from inside the house but couldn’t break through an exterior door on the first floor and couldn’t gain access through the second floor because the flames had grown too intense.
“I got to the bottom of the stairs and there were no more voices, no more screams,” Kirchner said.
On the witness stand Friday, Yeskie said after she and LaPointe escaped, she saw the front porch engulfed in flames and “sparks like lightning” outside from electrical wires that were coming down as the fire raged.
She said once outside, she somehow found herself away from the blaze, where she waited for her husband and son to join her, hoping they had escaped as well.
“I waited and waited for them,” Yeskie said. “But, I knew they weren’t coming up the hill.”
Yeskie broke down in tears on the witness stand as she described the layout of the house at 17 Fair St., where she’d lived for 44 years. That night, she said, she was awakened after 2 a.m. by a fire alarm.
When she got up, she said, she saw the glow of fire already gutting the porch.
“It was a solid block of red, no flames, just red,” she said. “I just kept staring at the window because I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.”
She ran downstairs, found her husband, who told her to get back upstairs and call the fire department. When she ran back upstairs the second floor, which had been smoke-free, was blanketed in thick smoke.
She said Lapointe had somehow already left the house.
“She was bed-ridden,” Yeskie said. “I don’t know how she got out.”
Yeskie said when she was outside, she went around the back of the house and could see that the window of the first-floor bathroom was blackened with soot and smoke.
During cross examination by defense attorney David Hoose, Yeskie said the first noise she heard that morning was the sound of the fire alarm screeching.
Hoose asked her if she knew who the last person who used the door to the exterior porch was.
“Sure I do,” Yeskie said. “The person who set the fire.”
Jurors also heard testimony from other witnesses who were victims of some of the fires set in Northampton that morning.
Henry Siegel, 18, said he heard rustling noises and sounds like objects being dropped outside his window at 26 Union St. a few minutes before 2 a.m. and shortly before a fire that began on the porch of that home destroyed most of it.
“The kitchen was basically ash,” Siegel said. “It destroyed everything we owned.”
Naomi Cairns, 33, testified she had lost a house to fire three years before Dec. 27, 2009. She said when she realized her Highland Avenue building was on fire said she felt that “someone was trying to kill me.”
Three state troopers assigned to the fire and explosives investigation section all testified that, in their opinions, the fires on Highland Avenue, Union and Fair streets were all deliberately set using an open flame and started with materials available at each of the fire scenes.
Testimony resumes Monday. The prosecution may rest its case by the end of the week.
For live updates throughout the trial follow @BDGazette on Twitter.
Bob Dunn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.