by: KIRO 7 News Staff Updated:
MOUNT VERNON, Wash. - UPDATE: The Associated Press reports that prosecutors have dropped arson and murder charges against one of two defendants in what authorities describe as a deliberately set fire that killed two children in Skagit County.
Jaramy Chism has been released from custody, but his former co-defendant, Kimberly Hughes, remains held on $2 million bail, the AP reported.
Chism and Hughes were arrested July 15 after an early morning fire at a home where they had just been evicted killed a 6-year-old boy and an 8-year-old girl and injured the children's parents.
Investigators have said they believe both Hughes and Chism were involved — and that Hughes had threatened to burn the house down days earlier. But lawyers for the pair say they deny involvement.
Chism's attorney, Jon Scott, said Monday that he had requested a preliminary hearing in the case because he did not believe prosecutors had enough evidence to hold his client. Prosecutors dropped the charges rather than go through with the hearing, which had been set for Monday.
PREVIOUS STORY: Washington prosecutors now have 30 days to officially file charges against two people suspected of causing a fire that killed two children and injured three adults, the Associated Press reported.
On July 17, a judge set bail at $2 million each for the man and woman being held for first-degree murder and arson that killed two children.
Generally prosecutors have a 72-hour window to file charges in Skagit Count Superior Court, AP reported, but a magistrate's warrant gives them until August 18 to formally file charges. In addition to charges of murder and arson, the suspects also faced charges of "extreme indifference."
Court documents state Jaramy Chism and Kimberly Hughes are being investigated for starting a fire at the home of Jessica Starr and Bryan Bachofer on July 15.
Starr's two children, Rose, 8, and Xavier, 6, perished in the fire.
A friend of Bachofer and Starr's, Jacob Motz, was also in the home at the time of the fire; all three sustained injuries from the blaze.
When firefighters arrived at the scene around 2:30 a.m., they found the home fully engulfed in flames; they battled the blaze for hours.
Bachofer and Motz told authorities that everyone in the home was sleeping when at about 2:00 a.m. on Saturday, July 17 Motz said he was woken by the sound of fire crackling. When he looked outside, he saw a fire coming from the home's front porch. He woke Bachofer and the two ran downstairs in an attempt to extinguish the fire, but by that time the home was engulfed in flames.
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At the same time, Starr ran to rescue her children. She was able to get the children to a window to escape, but when she pushed open the screen to the window, she fell to the ground from the second story of the home. The children did not make it out of the home.
"I saw this gal out there," Bob Eaton, who lives nearby, said. "I threw open the door and it was [her]."
"She had some bleeding on her hands," Carol Eaton said. "Her hands were all black and red."
"She couldn't get back up [in the house] obviously," Carol said. "Everything was on fire and she didn't see or hear the kids any more. She was just hysterical."
Bachofer told authorities he suspects that Chism and Hughes set the fire as retaliation for being evicted from the home on July 11. He said Hughes had been repeatedly threatening him in the past two weeks and that on July 8 she told him "I will sue you or burn your house down."
Chism had been working for Bachofer, but Bachofer fired him earlier this month.
On July 12, Chism and Hughes arrived at the home to do laundry; Bachofer called the police and made them leave. Two days later the two returned to the home to pick up their final paycheck and Bachofer told police that was the last time he saw them.
When police located Chism and Hughes on July 15, they saw a gas can in the back of the couple's car. Preliminary testing of the scene of the fire shows that gasoline was used.
The two claimed they had been together all day on July 14, running errands and playing video games. They claimed to be asleep until police located them in a tent in a residential backyard in Sedro-Wooley.
Hughes has a 2014 prior conviction of second-degree arson; she reportedly set her boyfriend's clothing on fire as retaliation for cheating on her.
At Chism and Hughes' bail hearing, Meagan Bellus, who attended high school with Hughes and is an acquaintance of Starr said Hughes has a history of retaliating against people she believes have wronged her.
"She's done arson before," Bellus said, adding that the started "J.P.'s house" on fire while people were in the home.
Bellus also added that she doesn't believe Chism had anything to do with the fire, saying she believes that "because we know Kim."
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