Rochester, N.Y. - Attorneys for a mother caused with intentionally starting the fire the killed her four children said it could be tied to burning incense, and tests by the arson squad prove it.
The statements were made in a court hearing to determine whether alleged admissions Bobbie Kugler made to police during 23 hours of recorded interviews should be allowed at her murder trial.
Rochester Police Investigator Jim May testified that on February 18, in the hours after the fire, he visited Kugler in the hospital. He said she made a stunning statement.
“She asked what we found out. She asked ‘Did I kill my kids? She began to break down and cry,” Investigator May testified.
That alleged statement sparked an intensive investigation. Police recorded Kugler on three separate occasions, sometimes secretly. They said eventually she confessed to intentionally starting the fire by lighting photos of her boyfriend on fire, then throwing them onto a dresser filled with debris.
A motive has never been given. Four of her children , Gage Reavey, Gregory Kugler, Kandee Kugler, and Kaiden Kugler died in the fire.
On Thursday, her attorneys made another revelation about burn tests conducted by arson investigators to try to start a similar fire using burning photographs.
Attorney: It resulted in a fire that burned across the pictures, but not up the wall?
Attorney: Did they try to set clothing on fire with the pictures?
Investigator: I don’t know.
Defense attorneys said Kugler had incense burning on the kitchen stove and on the dresser the night before the fire, suggesting it may have been the cause.
During questioning, Investigator May testified other burn tests using conducted by the arson squad using the incense brand “Butt Naked” (Kugler’s brand) did start clothing (a t-shirt and jeans) on fire.
The tests raised the question whether the fire was accidental – a case of neglect but not murder. Defense attorney Michael Lopez declined to be interviewed.
Prosecutors would not talk about the burn tests, what they revealed, or how they fit into other evidence that was recovered. “That’s a trial issue, I’m reluctant to comment at this time,” said Assistant District Attorney Kyle Steinbach.
A judge will determine whether the 23 hours of recorded interviews can be used at trial. The recordings were made on three occasions over two days.
On April 13, the day of Kugler’s arrest, during the five hour drive from her parents’ house in Poughkeepsie to Rochester, she was being secretly recorded by three separate devices. Two were worn by police officers. A third was hard-wired to the police car with a mic in the head rest.
Kuglers attorneys argued the statements should be thrown out because she was under duress and taking prescription medication after a suicide attempt.