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Bond set at $10M for defendant accused of killing Senegalese family in Green Valley Ranch arson case

This is likely the highest bond set in a murder case in Denver County since Colorado Supreme Court changed law, according to prosecution
Diol house fire in Green Valley Ranch_flowers out front
Posted at 3:57 PM, Aug 18, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-18 20:13:48-04

DENVER — A judge set bond at $10 million cash-only Friday afternoon for a defendant charged with five counts of murder in connection with a 2020 house fire that killed a Senegalese family in Denver's Green Valley Ranch neighborhood.

Friday's hearing for Gavin Seymour, 19, was set in the wake of the recent Colorado Supreme Court ruling in State vs. Smith, which states that the denial of bail for capital offenses, like first-degree murder, is no longer allowed. During the hearing, Second Judicial District Judge Karen Brody stressed that this was not a request from the defense or Seymour.

Seymour faces five counts of first-degree murder after deliberation, five counts of first-degree murder (extreme indifference), five counts of felony murder, multiple counts of attempted murder, first-degree assault with a deadly weapon, first-degree arson, burglary and conspiracy in connection with the deadly 2020 house fire.

The fire was reported in the early hours of Aug. 5, 2020 along the 5300 block of N. Truckee Street. Later that day, the Denver Fire Department confirmed a toddler, child, and three adults had died — later identified as Djibril and Adja Diol, their 2-year-old daughter Khadija, Hassan Diol and her infant daughter, Hawa Baye — and investigators suspected arson. The family had immigrated to Colorado from Senegal.

Diol Family

About half a year after the deadly fire, in late January 2021, authorities arrested three teens in connection with the crime: Seymour and Kevin Bui, both 16 years old at the time of their arrest, and Dillon Siebert, who was 15 at the time of his arrest. The trio incorrectly thought Bui's stolen iPhone was inside the home, according to an arrest affidavit.

During Friday's hearing, Judge Brody heard from family members of the victims before listening to the arguments about bond.

The first family member to speak said he forgives Seymour and the other defendants, but did not believe Seymour deserved to be outside.

“I really forgive them, and I know most of the people in my community forgive them, for the horrible crime they did," he said, shaking. "But there’s nothing — nothing — that can replace the people that we lost.”

He said he is not from the United States, but since he has lived here, he knows Americans stand for freedom, liberty and justice, stressing the latter.

"You commit a crime, you have to pay for it," he said.

Ousman Ba, sibling of Djibril Diol and Adja Diol, said he does not forgive any of the defendants and was frustrated the court was discussing bond.

He said he drives along Interstate 70 every day in Denver and thinks of his brother, who was an engineer working on that part of the highway. Djibril “Jibby” Diol had received his civil engineering degree from Colorado State University. He had passions, dreams and a vision to change the world, Ba said. He thinks of his parents, who he said haven't slept in three years. He thinks of the two children he will never see grow up.

"They deserve way more than this — our community deserves way more than this," Ba said. "They all came here for a better life and for that to be cut short… and we’re talking about bond? I just can't fathom the idea that my brother’s killers are going to be out on the streets, if they can afford it."

Ba asked for closure.

"We’re still hurt and haven't had the chance to heal because we haven't seen justice," he concluded.

A third family member, Amadou Beye, said Seymour killed his wife, his 1-year-old daughter and his cousin.

"He killed all my heart in the U.S.," he said. "I'm not going to be a normal person anymore because of these people."

He struggled to grasp the defendant's perspective, saying he would never accept help from anybody if he killed five people. He also couldn't imagine helping pay bond for a person suspected of that crime, he said.

"You killed my wife and daughter and I will never forgive you and I hope you suffer the rest of your life and die hard," he said.

After victim statements, prosecutors said they had reviewed recent bonds set in Denver County following the state's Supreme Court decision and they believed the highest bond set in a murder case was $5 million cash-only. They argued that bond in this case should be higher because five people were killed, the loss to their community was extreme and evidence was strong.

"It might be one of the most horrific cases Denver has ever had," prosecutors said.

They then asked for a $10 million cash-only bond for Seymour.

The defense asked for $500,000 cash surety or property bond, noting that Seymour is young, has a family to go home to and does not have a criminal history before this incident.

Judge Brody said she considered the nature of the offense, allegations, files and purpose of the bond statute, and decided that the most appropriate bond was $10 million cash-only.

She cited the severity of the offense, concern for community safety and number of victims.

In addition, Judge Brody said Seymour's bond would include maximum supervision and surrender of passport and travel documents.

What happened at that home early on Aug. 5, 2020?

On the morning of the blaze in 2020, the Denver Fire Department said firefighters arrived at the home just before 3 a.m. and made a valiant effort to try to help the people still inside from the "very significant fire." They confirmed five people had perished and three others, who had all been on the second floor, were able to evacuate on their own.

Arson suspected after toddler, child, 3 adults die in Denver house fire Wednesday morning

The deceased were later identified. Djibril and Adja Diol had died with their 2-year-old daughter Khadija. In addition, Djibril Diol's sister Hassan Diol and her infant daughter, Hawa Baye, died.

The same day as the fire, authorities said they suspected arson and within a few weeks, they had focused their efforts on identifying three masked people seen on surveillance footage in the area at the time.

Investigators in August 2020 released pictures of three people wearing full face masks and dark hoodies, and pictures of a dark-colored four-door sedan, that they say are connected to the investigation into a suspected arson that killed five people from a Senegalese family earlier that month.

Evidence showed the fire was started with gasoline and surveillance video depicted one of the teens carrying a jug to the scene, according to an arrest affidavit. It also showed that the suspects entered the home at some point and gasoline was put on the interior walls on the first floor of the home, according to the affidavit.

As the months ticked by, authorities increased the reward for information to $50,000 in November 2020.

Suspects are arrested and the latest court updates

On Jan. 27, 2021, the Denver Police Department announced it had arrested Bui, Seymour, and Siebert.

Following their arrest, Bui and Seymour were formally charged as adults in early February 2021. They faced the same 60 counts, which includes five counts of first-degree murder after deliberation, five counts of first-degree murder (extreme indifference), five counts of felony murder, multiple counts of attempted murder, first-degree assault with a deadly weapon, first-degree arson, burglary and conspiracy, according to the Denver District Court.

Police said they believe the fire was a case of mistaken identity — Bui told investigators he was robbed weeks earlier while trying to buy a gun in City Park and when he pinged the stolen iPhone to find where it was located, the Truckee Street address popped up. The teens went there to retaliate, police alleged.

Investigators said the three boys had searched the Truckee Street house on Google multiple times in late July 2020. They also determined that Bui and a minor had purchased the masks seen in the surveillance footage at a Party City close to where they had lived, the affidavit reads. Cell phone data corroborated the Party City purchases and was used to track the suspects' movements from the Lakewood store to the Green Valley Ranch home hours later, investigators said in an arrest affidavit.

During a preliminary hearing in November 2021, the lead detective in the case said Bui admitted to planning and executing the fire.

Police wrote in the affidavit that social media played a big role in helping investigators identify the suspects and determine a motive. Of the many SnapChats sent back and forth about the retaliation, Siebert was involved in about 2% of the conversations, while about 97% were between Bui and Seymour, according to both the defense and prosecution in Siebert's case.

In late January 2022, a judge denied attorneys’ requests to move the Bui and Seymour cases to juvenile court.

Bui pleaded not guilty in August 2022. The month prior, he faced new charges tied to allegedly possessing and distributing pills with suspected fentanyl in jail.

Denver judge rejects teens' request to move fatal house fire case to juvenile court

As of Friday morning, both the cases for Bui and Seymour are on hold while the Colorado Supreme Court reviews a hearing on the issue of a Google search warrant that allowed for a reverse keyword search, which ultimately led authorities to identify the three teens. Their attorneys claim that the use of this search warrant was a violation of the protection of unreasonable search and seizures because it was too broad.

On Friday, Judge Brody said the Colorado Supreme Court will make a ruling on this on Sept. 29.

In February, Siebert, now 17, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, including a sentence enhancer for using a weapon in a crime.

Teen sentenced in case of Green Valley Ranch arson that killed Senegalese family in 2020

His sentencing was somewhat complicated as it included both juvenile court and district court to satisfy the sentencing rules regarding incarceration: He was sentenced to seven years in district court, as well as a suspended sentence of 26 years should he violate the terms of that sentence, according to Denver District Attorney Beth McCann. He was also sentenced to three years in juvenile court.

Both Bui and Seymour face longer sentences than Siebert, since they were both older and because they had a greater role, according to prosecutors.

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