FORT EDWARD — The Hudson Falls man who killed his girlfriend by setting their house on fire last September apologized Friday as he was sentenced to state prison, but the family of the woman he killed said his last-ditch apology did not ring true to them.
Derrick M. Guilder, told Washington County Judge Kelly McKeighan that he was “extremely sorry” for the fire last Sept. 6 that claimed the life of 18-year-old Ashley Coltrain, and that he wished he could help her family. He set papers ablaze to kill both of them, but fled the fire and left her behind.
“If I could go back, I would definitely change it,” he said before McKeighan sentenced him to 22-years-to-life in state prison. “I wish I could do things to help them feel better.”
McKeighan did not accept his attempt at showing remorse, rejecting Guilder’s claim the fire was a “tragedy,” because he intentionally set a fire with the intent of killing Coltrain and “created the situation.”
McKeighan heard a victims impact statement from Coltrain’s father in which he lamented the loss of her “smile that brightened our day.”
“A young lady with a passion for art who will never see her full potential,” Daniel Coltrain’s statement read.
Washington County District Attorney Tony Jordan said Guilder plotted the fire, doing Internet searches for “flammable household materials,” and falsely claimed he tried to help Coltrain get out. He said he also showed no remorse throughout the proceedings.
Coltrain was apparently unconscious less than 6 minutes after an early morning text to a friend, the text occurring seconds after she was on the phone with an emergency dispatcher about smoke in her home, Jordan said. Instead of helping her, the defendant left her behind.
“People lost so much that day and continue to suffer because of it,” Jordan said.
As he outlined for McKeighan what Guilder did, loved ones of Coltrain’s could be heard sobbing in the courtroom.
Guilder’s lawyer, Theresa Suozzi, said her client was remorseful from the day of the fire.
“He did have second thoughts and tried to undo what he did, but it was too late,” she said.
Dozens of loved ones of Ashley’s attended the proceeding, many wearing T-shirts adorned with her picture. Several spoke to reporters after the proceedings, saying that Guilder’s apology rang hollow.
Aunt Nikki Shaw recalled Coltrain as “sweet and loving” and said she hoped her death helped raise awareness of domestic violence.
Aunt Ondrea Crandall called her niece strong, warm and giving
“I can’t imagine why anyone would want to hurt her,” Crandall said. “We want her loving memory to go on.”
Guilder told police he set the North Street home ablaze because he wanted to kill Coltrain and himself as their relationship ended. But he decided to flee out a window, and police and firefighters pulled him from a porch roof as Coltrain was trapped in a second-story bedroom.
Guilder, 22, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder on Dec. 8.
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.
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.