Criminal Justice News

Friday, September 16, 2016

Duell Sentenced to 11 Years, 3 Months on Perjury Convictions



Made False Statements to Grand Jury During an Arson-Homicide Investigation

ALBANY, NEW YORK – Jennica A. Duell, age 28, of Schenectady, New York, was sentenced today to 135 months in prison for providing false testimony before a grand jury investigating the May 2013 fire that killed three of her children and their father, as well as seriously injured a fourth child.

The announcement was made by U.S. Attorney Richard S. Hartunian and Charlie J. Patterson, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) New York Field Division.

United States Attorney Richard S. Hartunian said: “Jennica Duell’s perjuries were the most reprehensible imaginable – detailed falsehoods about an arson homicide that killed the defendant’s own young children and their father and crippled the federal criminal investigation to hold accountable those responsible.  Five times over five weeks, Duell said she was present when the fire was set by her boyfriend, even recounting how she said ‘yes’ when he asked if she wanted to be free before setting the blaze.  Eight months later, she testified that her prior statements and testimony were false and said she and her boyfriend were never there.  My office and our law enforcement partners remain fully committed to uncovering the truth and securing justice for the victims of this heinous act.”

ATF Acting Special Agent in Charge Charlie J. Patterson said: “On the night of May 2, 2013, David Terry, 32, Layah Terry, 3, Michael Terry, 2, and Donavan Duell, 11 months old, lost their lives.  Sa’fyre Terry, then 5, survived through the actions of her father, but suffered severe burns.  The children’s mother, the defendant, Jennica Duell, when confronted with the horror of that crime, betrayed them and this community by obstructing and impeding the criminal investigation rather than telling the truth.  Sa’fyre will have to live the rest of her life with the injuries of that night; the defendant will only have to live with the repugnance and moral turpitude of her character.  While the damage the defendant did to the investigation cannot be understated, her sentencing today, though justly deserved, is only a small victory in light of the greater task at hand.  ATF’s goal is, and always will be, the identification, prosecution and conviction of those responsible for the crimes that occurred on that terrible night.  The memory of the victims who perished, and the will of Sa’fyre to live, strengthen our resolve to ensure that justice is done.”

As part of her May 16, 2016 guilty plea, Duell admitted that she made irreconcilably contradictory statements under oath before a grand jury conducting an investigation into the May 2, 2013 arson at 438 Hulett Street in Schenectady, New York, which caused the deaths of David Terry and three young children, seriously injured another child, and destroyed the building and the personal property inside.  Duell admitted that on May 24, 2013, she testified regarding specific events that allegedly occurred on May 1-2, 2013, and then, on January 31, 2014, gave irreconcilably contradictory testimony about those events.  

On May 24, 2013, Duell’s testimony about the events of May 2, 2013 included the following: Sometime after 3 a.m., she, her boyfriend, and two other men traveled from Saratoga Springs to Schenectady so that her boyfriend could confront David Terry, the father of her children.  They stopped at a gas station and filled up a gas can. Then they went to the house at 438 Hulett Street, where her boyfriend grabbed the gas can and poured some gas into a water bottle, walked over to the house, and poured gas in the hallway and up the stairs. Duell asked what he was doing, said “don’t do this,” and “my babies are in there,” and her boyfriend said “they are not going to get hurt.” After he lit the fire, Duell “saw the flames” and “wanted to get in there . . . but he wouldn’t let me.”  Before her boyfriend poured the gas and set the fire, he said to Duell, “do you want to be free?”  Duell said “yes.”

On January 31, 2014, Duell testified that her prior testimony regarding what happened on May 1-2, 2013 was untrue.

Senior U.S. District Judge Gary L. Sharpe also sentenced Duell to a 3-year term of post-imprisonment supervised release and imposed a $300 special assessment.

On March 17, 2016, Judge Sharpe sentenced Edward A. Leon, 44, of St. Johnsville, New York, to 10 years in prison, also for providing perjured testimony to the grand jury investigating the May 2013 fire.  Leon was convicted of perjury following a 3-day trial in November 2015.

This case was investigated by the ATF, the Schenectady Police Department, and the Schenectady Fire Department.  The case was prosecuted by First Assistant U. S. Attorney Grant C. Jaquith and Assistant United States Attorney Wayne A. Myers.

Further questions or inquiries may be directed to First Assistant U.S. Attorney Jaquith at 518-431-0247.

The ATF notes that there is a reward of up to a total of $40,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible for the arson that occurred on May 2, 2013 at 438 Hulett Street in Schenectady, resulting in personal injury and death.  All information will be treated confidentially and the callers will remain anonymous if requested.  Anyone having information is encouraged to call ATF at 1-888-ATF-FIRE (1-888-283-3473), or email ATFTips@atf.gov (link sends e-mail), or contact ATF through its web site at www.atf.gov/contact/atf-tips.  Tips may also be submitted to ATF through the “report it” app, available on both Google Play and the Apple App Store, or by visiting www.reportit.com (link is external).

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