Roughly a month after he pleaded guilty to starting the fire that claimed the life of his girlfriend in September, Derrick Guilder was sentenced in Washington County Court Friday. Matt Hunter reports from Fort Edward.
FORT EDWARD, N.Y. – Describing her as a sweet, caring and trusting young woman, loved ones of Ashley Coltrain say the family still struggles to cope with the loss of the 18-year-old this past September.
“She was on the cusp of her life, she was going to college she had plans, she had goals,” said Nikki Shaw, a close friend of Coltrain’s late mother. “It was a planned horrific event by a man who was just selfish; he was selfish.”
“We all loved Ashley,” said Ondrea Crandall, Coltrain’s aunt. “Ashley was perfect in our eyes. I can’t imagine why anybody would want to hurt her.”
Wearing t-shirts showing Coltrain’s face, more than 50 family members crammed inside the Washington County Courthouse Friday as her former boyfriend, Derrick Guilder, was sentenced to 22 years to life in state prison. Last month, he pleaded guilty to starting the fire at their Hudson Falls home from which Coltrain would not escape. He was facing charges of second degree murder, first degree arson and criminal mischief.
“As if that’s not bad enough, Guilder used the obituary section from the Post-Star, announcing the death of Ashley's mother, to start the fire,” Washington County District Attorney Tony Jordan told the courtroom prior to Guilder’s sentencing being handed down.
Speaking briefly, Guilder did express remorse, but Judge Kelly McKeighan did not believe his words were sincere.
“I am extremely sorry for the tragedy,” Guilder said while reading from a written statement. “If I could go back, I would change it.”
“I read in the pre-sentencing report you wish it was you who died and not her,” McKieghan said while addressing Guilder directly. “I think pretty much everyone in this room wishes the same thing.”
Also not satisfied with Guilder’s apology, Coltrain’s family members say the heartache caused by her her loss will likely never go away.
“I don’t feel like he meant any of it,” Crandall said. “It was just, it was a PC thing.”
“I don’t know if any amount of sentence will compare to our grief, our sorrow and our loss,” Shaw said. “There is just no way.”