BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — One of two men charged after four people died in a mobile home fire near Billings in April acknowledged in court that he ran out of the trailer while it was on fire without trying to awaken the victims or calling the fire department.
Zaccary John Kern pleaded guilty Tuesday to four counts of negligent homicide by accountability. Under the plea agreement, prosecutors will recommend that he be sentenced to 35 years in prison with 10 suspended, The Billings Gazette (http://bit.ly/O51Myo) reported.
Prosecutors said Kern and Robert Bottenhagen, who were both 21 at the time, had been drinking with the four victims at a Billings bar on April 17 and then joined them at a mobile home in Lockwood, where one of the victims lived.
Kern said after the four victims fell asleep, he was "drinking and being stupid" when he set fire to a napkin and then put it out with his hand. Kern told District Judge Russell Fagg that he watched Bottenhagen set fire to an apron and then swing it around, setting fire to the kitchen.
Kern acknowledged that they ran out of the burning trailer without warning the victims or calling for help.
Amber-Marie Beyers, 33; Donovan Fogle, 25; Brandi Hansen Moats, 25; and Troy Saylor, 28, died of smoke inhalation in the fire, which a neighbor reported at 4 a.m.
Bottenhagen and Kern were arrested later that day.
Bottenhagen has pleaded not guilty to four counts of negligent homicide. His trial is scheduled to start April 30, and he remains jailed on $150,000 bond.
Kern's sentencing will be scheduled after Bottenhagen's trial.
Information from: The Billings Gazette, http://www.billingsgazette.com