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DA David Sullivan updates Ward 3 residents on Anthony Baye arson case

Last modified: Wednesday, September 12, 2012

NORTHAMPTON - Hampshire County residents will not be part of the jury in the arson and murder trial of Anthony Baye.

Northwestern District Attorney David E. Sullivan told the Ward 3 Neighborhood Association's board meeting Tuesday night that his office has agreed to a motion to allow the jury pool to be drawn from neighboring Hampden County. Baye's defense team is seeking a change of venue out of concern their client wouldn't be able to get a fair trial in Northampton, but Sullivan said the trial will still be held in Hampshire Superior Court in Northampton.

Sullivan and members of his staff and Northampton Police Lt. Jody Kasper appeared at the Bridge Street School at the invitation of the board to answer questions about the Baye case or other concerns of importance to members of the neighborhood.

Sullivan said he believes that Baye is solely responsible for the string of fires that "paralyzed and terrorized" the Ward 3 neighborhood on Dec. 27, 2009, resulting in the deaths of Paul Yeskie Jr. and his father, Paul Yeskie Sr., who burned to death in their Fair Street home.

Baye was arrested in early January 2010 on charges related to the Dec. 27 fires, including two counts of murder related to the Yeskies' deaths.

Part of Baye's recorded interview with police was ruled inadmissible by the Supreme Judicial Court in July, prompting prosecutors to drop most of the original charges and re-submit the case to a grand jury. Eight days later, prosecutors re-indicted Baye on a total of 42 counts, including charges related to 11 other fires that took place in the same area, in 2007 and 2009.

According to the DA's office, the crimes were committed in January, November and December of 2007 and between May and December of 2009. Most of the 42 alleged crimes occurred on Fair and Hawley streets and Highland and Northern avenues.

Baye has pleaded not guilty to all counts.

The period when the murder and arson charges were dropped and Baye's bail was set at $150,000 cash was of concern to Ward 3 residents who had previously been relieved that a suspect in the fires was in custody and were now worried that he could be released without going to trial on the most serious charges, said board member Joan Rasool.

Rasool said she feels there was a great deal of relief when Baye was re-indicted and the case continued.

Sullivan said he hopes the SJC decision will have a long-term benefit in criminal investigations.

He said every prosecutor and defense attorney should look at the Baye case to help ensure confessions in the future are obtained correctly and constitutionally, without violating a defendant's rights.

Following Baye's arraignment in July, David Hoose, one of Baye's two defense attorneys, expressed skepticism about the strength of the state's case against his client.

"I don't know how strong of a case it can be when it was dismissed a week ago," Hoose said at the time.

Despite part of the police interview being deemed inadmissible, Sullivan said he has no doubt about the strength of the case against Baye.

"I'm confident we're going to have a conviction," he said.

Kim Stillwell, of Conz Street, said it's important to keep the neighborhood abreast of the progress in the case, and people are eager to see the case come to trial.

"There's a sense of wanting justice to be served," she said. "I think people need resolution and closure."

Kasper said technology has improved in law enforcement, giving police a better chance of spotting crime patterns sooner and analyzing surveillance video and images more efficiently so crime sprees of this scale may be prevented in the future.

Sullivan took time also to tout programs through his office, including assigning assistant district attorneys to specific communities so they can get to know the residents and be more aware of their concerns, a program designed to curtail youth-started fires in homes, schools and the community at large, and a safe schools initiative to review complaints of bullying to determine if they rise to the level of criminal charges.

Baye is being held without the right to bail at the Hampshire Jail and House of Correction while awaiting trial. His next scheduled court appearance is a pre-trial hearing Thursday in Hampden Superior Court in Springfield, Sullivan said.


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