FORT EDWARD — The Hudson Falls man accused of arson and murder for a fire last month that killed his girlfriend told police that he was upset with her because he believed she was involved with another man, court records allege.
Derrick M. Guilder told police he set the Sept. 6 fire after he became “really pissed off” when concluding that 18-year-old Ashley M. Coltrain had apparently been seeing someone else.
Earlier that day, he had gone through her smartphone and found that she had been exchanging cellphone messages with a man she called “babe,” leading to an argument between Guilder and Coltrain, he told police. Police said she was believed to be planning to end their relationship.
Guilder initially told investigators he didn’t know how the fire started. But around 9 p.m. that night, as investigators told him what fire investigators found during their inquiry, Guilder eventually told police he did “something really, really stupid” and started the fire by igniting papers.
“When I lit the fire, I wanted everybody in the house to die,” he told police, according to court records. “I wanted us to go out together, like a family.”
He later added, “I wanted to die but I didn’t want her to ... I’m extremely sorry, I wish it was me.”
Guilder, 22, suffered smoke inhalation from the fire, and confessed hours later as he was questioned in Glens Falls Hospital by Hudson Falls Police and State Police, officials said.
More than two hours of videos and a written statement from that questioning were filed Wednesday in Washington County Court.
Guilder is seen in the recordings lying in a hospital bed, a tube in his nose, seeming calm and showing little emotion as he spoke with Hudson Falls Police Detective Scott Gillis and State Police investigators D.J. Mosher, Kevin Reppenhagen and James West, repeatedly going over what happened during the early morning hours as fire tore through the couple’s North Street home.
Guilder told police that he was upset she had apparently been seeing a neighbor while he was working to “support” them.
He told police he set newspaper (which he said contained Coltrain’s mother’s obituary) on fire with a lighter and placed it near a couch, then went up to the second-story bedroom the two shared and laid down next to Coltrain without telling her about the fire.
Eventually smoke made its way to the second floor, and the two called 911 and scrambled to find their ferrets and get out.
Guilder said he “ripped” an air conditioner from a window and climbed out, telling Coltrain to “get out” and yelling for her, but saying he didn’t see her at that point.
“I think she was already gone,” he told police.
Hudson Falls firefighters recovered Coltrain’s body from the burned home later that morning.
Court records include recounting of a number of other alleged admissions by Guilder, including police witnessing him later telling his mother in Glens Falls Hospital, “I did it ... I killed her.”
“I started the fire and someone died that didn’t deserve to die,” he was quoted as telling her. “I was just sick of everything.”
Hudson Falls Police Patrol Officer Ed Ackley wrote that he found it “unusual” that Guilder seemed to have no remorse or concern about his girlfriend, who remained trapped in the home in the moments after he was rescued.
“While the subject was coming down the ladder with me, he stated, ‘please get my ferrets and cat,’ “ Ackley wrote.
Guilder also told police he wrote a “will” earlier in the day, though it was unclear if police recovered it.
The statements were filed Friday at Guilder’s arraignment, but initially sealed from public view.
The Washington County District Attorney’s Office had sought to seal them indefinitely out of concerns about potentially hurting Guilder’s right to a fair trial. But Washington County Judge Kelly McKeighan found Wednesday that there was insufficient basis to conclude that the release of the evidence could taint potential jurors.
Guilder has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder, first-degree arson and second-degree criminal mischief charges. He worked in the hospital’s housekeeping department. The charges are punishable by up to 25-years-to life in state prison.
He was arrested the day after the fire as he was released from Glens Falls Hospital.
He is being held in Washington County Jail without bail, pending further court action on Dec. 15. His lawyer, Theresa Suozzi, did not return a phone call for comment Wednesday.
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.