NewsCrime

Actions

Denver judge rejects teens' request to move fatal house fire case to juvenile court

Newly unsealed affidavit provides more insight into crime
kevin bui and gavin seymour_green valley ranch fire.jpg
Posted at 4:55 PM, Jan 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-27 00:53:18-05

DENVER — Gavin Seymour and Kevin Bui, two teens charged in connection with a deadly fire that killed a Senegalese family in Green Valley Ranch in 2020, will be tried in Denver District Court after a judge denied their attorneys’ request to move the cases to juvenile court.

The two 17-year-old teens have both been charged as adults and are each facing more than 60 felony counts, including first-degree murder, for the death of five people — Djibril and Adja Diol, their 2-year-old daughter Khadija, Hassan Diol and her infant daughter, Hawa Baye — during a house fire in the 5300 block of N Truckee Street in the early morning hours of Aug. 5, 2020.

Judge Martin Egelhoff denied the transfer requests on Tuesday, stating in his order that “the interest of the defendant and the community would not be better served” if the cases were to be moved to juvenile court. However, a third teen charged as a juvenile continues their case in juvenile court.

Additionally, Judge Egelhoff unsealed the arrest affidavits for both defendants, which is providing additional insight into the actions and movements of the victims and responding officers at the time of the fire. It’s also shedding light on how investigators were able to identify the suspects, track their locations and purchases, and discover their alleged motive, which eventually led to the Jan. 27, 2021, arrests of three juveniles almost half a year after the house fire.

In addition, a woman named Tanya Bui is being investigated in connection to the fire. She was arrested Jan. 29, 2021, on federal drug and weapons charges. According to an arrest affidavit, she was paying for a cell phone that belonged to a suspect in the arson investigation who had the initials KB.

Police believe the fire was a case of mistaken identity, allegedly in response to the robbery of a cell phone during a drug deal that Bui was involved with weeks earlier. When Bui pinged the stolen iPhone, the Truckee St. address popped up and that's why the boys went there to retaliate, police allege. No evidence was presented showing the Diol family had anything to do with Bui being robbed, according to court records.

Investigators suspected early on that the house was targeted and wasn’t chosen randomly. Based on this assumption, investigators determined that an internet address search had to have been made as part of the planning process. They collected data from Google, which led them to the identity of the suspects based on IP addresses, according to the affidavit. Details as to how this data was obtained and what was included were redacted in the court documents.

They also linked the purchase of the masks the suspects were seen wearing in surveillance video to a Party City location near where the suspects lived in Lakewood, according to the documents. Cell phone data corroborated the Party City purchases and was used to track the suspects' movements from the Lakewood store to the Green Valley Ranch home hours later, investigators said in the affidavit.

Police wrote in the affidavit that social media played a big role in helping investigators identify the suspects and determine a motive. Snapchat conversations obtained by police during their investigation showed the suspects were making plans weeks before the fire, police contend. On July 15, 2020, Bui sent Seymour a message on Snapchat after the robbery in which Bui describes his frustration and his desire for revenge, “they [are going to] get theirs like I got mine,” Bui is alleged to have written to Seymour, according to the affidavit. Another message from Bui to Seymour says “#possiblyruinourfuturesandburnhishousedown.”

The fire was intense, and evidence shows it was started by gasoline, which the surveillance video depicts one of teens carrying a jug of it to the scene, the documents state. It also shows that the suspects made entry into the home at some point as gasoline was used on the interior walls on the first floor of the home, according to the affidavit.

Capt. Greg Pixley with the Denver Fire Department said police arrived at the home around 2:55 a.m. and made a valiant effort to try to help the people still inside from the "very significant fire." One of the first officers to arrive on the scene was able to gain entry to the home and saw a victim on the floor but could not reach the victim because of the intense heat, the affidavit states. That body and the bodies of the four other members of the Diol family were located on the first floor of the home.

Three people who had been on the second story of the building were able to evacuate on their own by breaking a window and jumping out, landing on rocks in the backyard. They initially attempted to escape down the stairs, but we’re turned back by the thick smoke after opening the bedroom door, according to the affidavit. The Diol family was able to make it down from their second-story bedroom but could not escape the home.

The attorney representing the Diol family released the following statement Wednesday:

“The Diol family appreciates the dedication of the Denver DA’s office and law enforcement. Not a day goes by that they do not grieve the loss of their family.”

Bui and Seymour will be back in court in March.