Community Reacts to Twardoski Guilty Verdict

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By Amy Fox
By Joe Carr
By Benjy Jeffords

PERCY -- Derrick Twardoski was convicted Wednesday of first-degree murder for a fire that tore apart a family and rattled their community.  In May, 2013, authorities say he set fire to the Owen family home in Percy. 

Four children were killed: a 12-year-old, a nine year old, and 5-year-old twins. Prosecutors agreed to a bench trial for Twardoski Wednesday, even though it means he'll avoid a life sentence. 


"It's not easy.  I look out my kitchen window every morning, I get up and see the house," Shirley Hornbostel said.

She lives just down the street from what's left of the Owen house in Percy. It's a constant reminder of what happened last year.

"It just makes you sad to know those children, you know, are not out there playing anymore like they were," said Hornbostel.

On Wednesday, the man accused of the crime 34-year-old Derrick Twardoski was found guilty of first-degree murder in a bench trial. He now faces 20 to 60 years in prison.

A former Percy resident Jerry Mansker said, "We could not believe that that man set that house on fire with all those little children in it."

In a statement, Randolph County State's Attorney Jeremy Walker wrote, "While we were confident taking our case to trial, the family of the victims and myself elected to remove natural life as a possible penalty to avoid the heartbreak and reliving the tragic events of May 10, 2013."

Walker says he wanted to avoid making three children involved in the case testify at trial and be exposed to crime scene images.

Twardoski will likely get the maximum sentence allowed, 60 years, and not have the chance for early release. Still, some say that's not enough.

Hornbostel said, "I think he's getting off easy enough for what the children had to go through and the parents, especially the parents are still suffering. They will just never get over it."

"I can understand their reasoning to want to get it over with and get some closure and move on, you know.  But, he got off really easy for what he did to these people," said Mansker.

Twardoski will be sentenced in October. Investigators are still not commenting on the motive for the crime.  Once the investigation is wrapped up, the house will be torn down.

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