FORT EDWARD — The Hudson Falls man who killed his girlfriend by setting fire to their home earlier this year pleaded guilty Friday to second-degree murder, agreeing to serve a minimum of 22 years in state prison
Derrick M. Guilder showed no emotion as he admitted he set the Sept. 6 fire that killed 18-year-old Ashley Coltrain, and acknowledged that he intended to kill her.
Washington County Judge Kelly McKeighan told Guilder that the proposed sentence was 22-years-to-life for his guilty plea to second-degree murder.
“Sir, is that what you want to do?” McKeighan asked him after explaining the plea offer.
“Yes, your honor,” Guilder replied quietly.
Guilder’s lawyer, Theresa Suozzi, told the judge that possible defenses to the charge were explored before Friday’s plea. She had no comment after Friday’s hearing.
Washington County District Attorney Tony Jordan said a sentence of up to life in prison was appropriate for Guilder’s pre-meditated killing of his girlfriend. He said Guilder seemed “regretful for what he did” at this point, but was a man who carefully planned the fire before setting it.
“What we have here is a man who planned his actions ... and didn’t do anything to save Ashley,” Jordan said.
Jordan praised the police and fire investigation, which he said resulted in a strong case against Guilder. He singled out the work of Hudson Falls Detective Scott Gillis and State Police Investigator David Mosher, who questioned Guilder and elicited his confessions, in particular.
Suozzi filed a notice last month indicating the defense may pursue a psychiatric defense in the case, but that effort was rendered moot by the guilty plea.
McKeighan said Friday that a report on an examination of Guilder was received by the court. He was deemed capable to stand trial.
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 with Coltrain because it appeared their romantic relationship may have been ending, and she may have begun seeing someone else.
Guilder, 22, faced second-degree murder, first-degree arson and second-degree criminal mischief charges, all felonies. The maximum prison term he faced was 25-to-life. The other charges will be dropped as part of the plea agreement.
Guilder 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.
Her family had endured another tragedy days earlier, when her 40-year-old mother died of heart problems on Aug. 27.
“This has been very difficult for the family,” Jordan said. “For them, this closure is important.”
Family members of Coltrain were in court Friday, but declined to comment on the matter afterward.
Guilder is being held in Washington County Jail pending sentencing Jan. 12. He waived his right to appeal the conviction as part of the plea deal, and also must make $19,025 restitution in the case.