Two men accused of starting a fire at a Lockwood mobile home that killed four people were charged Tuesday in Yellowstone County Justice Court.

Robert Eric Bottenhagen and Zaccary John Kern, both 21, appeared by video from the county jail and were charged with four counts each of negligent homicide.

Kern was also charged with four alternative charges of negligent homicide by accountability.

Both men were also charged with one count of felony tampering.

Negligent homicide carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. A conviction for tampering carries a possible 10-year sentence.  

Judge Pedro Hernandez set bond for both men at $150,000. He ordered them to appear next week for arraignment in District Court.

The fire in a mobile home at 206 Hemlock Road was reported shortly after 4 a.m. on April 18. Lockwood firefighters entered the house and found four bodies inside while putting out the blaze.

The victims have been identified as Amber-Marie Beyers, 33; Donavon Fogle, 25; Brandi Hansen Moats, 25; and Troy Saylor, 28, all of Billings.

Autopsies determined all four died of smoke inhalation.

Bottenhagen and Kern were arrested later that day, but few details were released to the public by the Yellowstone County Sheriff's Office.

In charging documents filed Tuesday, prosecutors describe how they say a night of drinking preceded to the deaths.

According to the court records, while firefighters and investigators were still at the scene of the fire, a woman who lives nearby called authorities to say she had information about the incident.

The woman, identified in court records by the initials H.W., later told investigators that on April 18 she was awakened by pounding on her door at about 4:30 a.m. 

She answered the door to find Bottenhagen and Kern, whom she knows, the woman said. Both men were drunk, and she let them inside to use the phone.

The men told H.W. that they had been at the Wild West Saloon the previous evening with Donovan, Fogle and Moats, and then joined them at Fogle's residence for an after-party.

Kern told H.W. they had started a house on fire, but put it out. Both men talked about lighting towels on fire and shaking them out, H.W. said.

Bottenhagen complained about burns on his hand. Kern said that during the night he had been in an argument with Moats and she bit his finger.

Fire investigators determined that the fatal blaze started in a cabinet below the kitchen sink. A burned apron or cloth was found on the floor of the kitchen.

H.W. said the men went to sleep and she woke them up at about 7:30 a.m. after reading about the fire on the Billings Gazette website. The men acknowledged that the residence in the news was where they had started the fire, and they told H.W. not to tell anyone about their involvement, court records state.

Bottenhagen and Kern left H.W.'s house and walked toward Billings. H.W. said she later spoke to Kern's girlfriend, who said she and another woman had picked up the two men at the YMCA at about 9 a.m.

Kern's girlfriend later told sheriff's investigators that she drove the men past the house that had burned at about 10:30 a.m. Both men "became very upset when they saw the fire scene," court records state.

Later that day, Bottenhagen turned himself in at the sheriff's office. During an interview, he said they had gone to Fogle's residence in Lockwood after the Wild West, and the four victims had passed out at about 1:30 a.m.

When asked about the fire, Bottenhagen requested an attorney, court records state.

Kern was also interviewed. He denied any involvement in the fire and also requested an attorney. Both men were booked into the county jail later that day.

0
0
0
0
0

Locations

State courts reporter for the Billings Gazette.