FORT EDWARD — The Hudson Falls man who allegedly set his home on fire, killing his girlfriend, is scheduled to appear in court on Friday for a possible guilty plea.
Derrick M. Guilder is mulling a plea deal offer that would require him to plead guilty to second-degree murder and result in a state prison sentence of 22-years-to-life for the Sept. 6 fire that killed 18-year-old Ashley Coltrain.
The Washington County Court calendar for Friday lists Guilder for a possible plea before Judge Kelly McKeighan at 1:30 p.m.
Washington County District Attorney Tony Jordan acknowledged Thursday that a court appearance had been scheduled, and plea discussions had been held. He declined to elaborate.
Guilder’s lawyer, Theresa Suozzi, did not return a phone call for comment Thursday.
She filed a notice last month, indicating the defense may pursue a psychiatric defense in the case, but that effort would be rendered moot by a guilty plea.
Suozzi said at Guilder’s Oct. 13 arraignment that he has a “prior psychological history” and had been on suicide watch in Washington County Jail.
Guilder was upset because it appeared their romantic relationship may have been ending, and Coltrain may have begun seeing someone else.
Guilder, 22, faces second-degree murder, first-degree arson and second-degree criminal mischief charges, all felonies. The maximum prison term he faces is 25-to-life.
He suffered smoke inhalation and was arrested the day after the fire as he was released from Glens Falls Hospital.
Police said he confessed to setting the fire by torching papers on a couch at the 11 North St., Hudson Falls, home, telling investigators that he initially planned to kill Coltrain and himself. But he “panicked” and fled the burning house, leaving Coltrain in their smoke-filled second-floor bedroom.
She called 911 to report the fire but did not escape in time. Guilder was rescued from a porch roof by police and firefighters.
Coltrain was a 2016 graduate of Hudson Falls High School who worked for two years at Great Escape and Splashwater Kingdom amusement park and had been enrolled at SUNY Adirondack. Friends described her as happy and upbeat. Her family had endured another tragedy days earlier, when her 40-year-old mother died of heart problems on Aug. 27.
Guilder is being held in Washington County Jail without bail.
If Guilder does not plead guilty, a psychiatric defense could be pursued along two different avenues. Guilder could allege he suffered from “extreme emotional disturbance” at the time of the fire, which, if successful, could result in a conviction for a lesser charge of manslaughter.
He also could pursue an “insanity defense,” which could result in a jury finding that Redden was not guilty of the crimes because he lacked the capacity to know or appreciate either the nature and consequences of his actions or that they were wrong.
He would be confined to a secure mental institution indefinitely if found not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect.