LOWVILLE, N.Y. (WWNY) - A Lewis County man has been indicted for murder in connection with a house fire in Lowville that killed two women over three months ago.
A 13-count indictment was handed up by a Lewis County grand jury against 28 year old Shawn Exford. The charges include two counts of second-degree murder, two counts of first-degree arson, and several counts of first-degree reckless endangerment.
He pleaded not guilty to all charges in Lewis County Court Friday morning. Bail was set at $500,000 cash or $1 million bond.
Exford is accused of “starting a fire in a common hallway and fleeing said premises without alerting anyone of the fire,” District Attorney Leanne Moser said.
The fire at 7525 South State Street started just before midnight on November 30 and lasted into the morning of December 1.
Two women, 58 year old Catherine Crego and 42 year old Saratina Kilbourne, were killed in the fire. Their bodies were found on the second floor.
Prosecutors say Exford knew the two women were inside when he set the fire.
An autopsy found they died from asphyxia from smoke and “heated products of combustion.”
Another resident of the building, 60 year old Brian Mushtare, was treated for smoke inhalation, cuts, and minor burns at Lewis County General Hospital.
Mushtare and Crego lived in separate apartments in the building. Kilbourne lived in a house nearby.
“There were two people who died in this case and we needed to get justice for those people,” state police Troop D Commander Philip Rougeux said, “and we believe with this indictment, hopefully justice and maybe some closure can be found.”
Attorney John Hallett said Friday that he has no comment on the charges and expects to conference with the district attorney next week.
He said prosecutors gave him copies of video they’re using as evidence. That video likely came from surveillance cameras from homes and businesses on South State Street.
In the meantime, prosecutors are asking the court for a 30-day extension for discovery, the time period in which they have to turn evidence over to the defense. State law that took effect this year mandates that discovery is limited to 15 days.
Prosecutors say they asked for the extension because they have extensive digital evidence and documents.
“The community has been wonderful in providing resources when asked by law enforcement,” Moser said.