Two children died and three adults were injured after a fire engulfed a home in Washington in the early morning of July 15. Police have arrested and held a couple on suspicion of arson in the matter, which took place in Skagit County near Mount Vernon.
Kimberly Marie Hughes, 32, and Jaramy L. Chism, 24, were on a 72-hour investigation hold in the case, though formal charges are expected July 19. Those charges are expected to be arson and two counts of first-degree murder after the fire killed 6-year old Xavier and 8-year-old Rose, the children of Jessica Starr.
Hughes and Chism were former tenants of a property owned by landlord Bryan Bachofer and Starr, but were evicted five days earlier and had been living in a tent. The incident claimed the lives of the two children after they were unable to exit the early-morning blaze in time.
Bachofer has accused Hughes of threatening to burn down their home in the days that led up to their eviction. The couple had their first court appearance July 17 are being held on $2 million bail.
Here’s what you need to know about Hughes, Chism and the case:
1. The Children Were Trapped on the 2nd Story After Starr Fell out of the Window When She Tried to Save Them
According to the probable cause affidavit, emergency personnel responded to a report of a fire at the home on Bay View Road in Skagit County around 2:35 a.m. on July 15. The call was placed by a neighbor, who said that the house was “fully engulfed” in flames and the people inside were screaming for help. Another call from a different neighbor informed authorities that there were children in the home.
Once deputies arrived on scene, they made contact with the homeowners, Bachofer and Starr. Both of them had visible injuries including “severe burns.” They told emergency crews that their two children were still inside of the house. In addition to the children, an adult roommate named Jacob Motz was inside the home and was injured.
According to the document, Vachofer and Motz said everyone was asleep when Motz woke up to the sound of fire crackling. As he looked around, he saw fire throughout the home coming from the porch area. Motz told police he was “positive” that the fire was started from the outside and was moving inside. When he noticed the blaze, he tried to put it out while Starr ran upstairs to assist the children. But by the time the two male adults reached the first floor of the home, it was fully engulfed in flames and they were all unable to get back upstairs, exiting the house through the first floor and leaving Starr and the children on the second.
Starr, inside the children’s rooms, opened a second-story window so they could try and escape. Tragically, she fell out of the window and onto the ground and her children were unable to escape.
A friend has set up a GoFundMe account in honor of the family. In one day, it raised almost $5,000 of its initial $15,000 goal.
“(Starr and Bachofer) will be facing unimaginable pain and sorry,” GoFundMe organizer Tamara Carlson wrote. “They’ve lost everything and will be facing unimaginable grief, medical recovery, medical bills and the rebuilding of their lives.”
To donate to the cause, click here.
2. Bachofer Told Police Right Away He Suspected Hughes & Chism Committed Arson
When being interviewed by police, Bachofer said that he suspected Hughes and Chism were the culprits of starting the fire. He said that the couple were evicted from the home and moved out just days earlier on July 11.
In the week leading up to the eviction, Bachofer told police that Hughes had been threatening him and was acting violent. At one point, Bachofer said Hughes threatened him by saying she would “sue (him) or burn (his) house down.”
Read the probable cause affidavit in the document below:
On her Facebook account, Hughes had a series of posts early in the morning July 7 asking her friends for advice.
“If someone were to continuously go out of their way to f*** with you when you’ve done nothing but be helpful and respectful to them. How would you go about getting revenge?” she wrote.
In the comment section of the post, Hughes wrote that she wanted to get retrobution. While she didn’t call out Bachbfer by name, she implied that she had animosity against her former employer because of “refusing to pay for work that we’ve worked.”
3. Chism Worked For Bachofer, But Was Fired
Chism had worked for Bachofer, but was fired two weeks before the blaze. According to Hughes, that was one of the main reasons the two parties got into confrontations.
One day after the couple were evicted from the home, they returned to “try to do laundry,” Bachofer told authorities. He said he contacted police and made them leave the property.
Just one day before the fire, Chism and Hughes were back on the property, this time to pick up Chism’s final paycheck.
Bachofer notified police that Chism and Hughes were seen at the time in a blue Subaru Legacy, which they located in Sedro-Woolley with a can of gas inside the vehicle.
Chism and Hughes were found asleep inside a tent in the backyard of a home in Sedro Woolley and were taken into police custody without incident.
4. Hughes Has Posted About Her Landlords &Amp; Eviction on Social Media, Threatening Them More
Hughes never shied away from posting about her ongoing eviction and situation with her landlords. She accused the couple of trying to kick them out of their home despite breaking “law after law.”
Another post to her Facebook page later the same day told Hughes’ side of the eviction. She said that her and Chism were given 30 days to evict the premises and noted that they “need to get out of here ASAP.”
Hughes accused Bachofer of trying to have them sign a document that says they would have to “replace all their appliances if they break down.” She said that he “threatened to not pay” the couples’ paychecks.
Upon hearing the news that they were going to be evicted, Hughes said she threatened lawsuit against the landlord. She said that Bacheor called the police and claimed the couple were threatening his business.
After they were evicted, Hughes posted another message saying that they her and Chism were without a home.
Other posts to Hughes’ Facebook profile include many anti-Donald Trump posts in addition to some graphic art of death and murder.
5. Hughes Was Unemployed & Had an Extensive Court Record
Before her Facebook page was taken down, it said that Hughes studied nursing at a local community college. A post to Facebook shows that she’s been unemployed for quite some time, saying she was “planning on going back to school” to obtain her nursing degree.
“I’ve lived on less than 5000$ for the past decade,” she wrote in a comment.
“I’ve worked maybe 6-7 days all year, so year, not enough to save,” another comment said.
Chism’s Facebook page says that he worked for Michael’s Installation and Starr Installation. He attended Sedro-Woolley High School.
According to state business records, Starr Installation is owned by Starr and had been since May 18, 2015.
A search of the Washington state court records system shows there are numerous entries for Hughes and none for Chism — aside from the arson case.
Records date back to 2004 when Hughes sought a protective order, but it was denied by a judge.