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Man charged in fatal Washington County explosion rejects plea deal

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Albany/HV: Man charged in fatal Washington County explosion rejects plea deal
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The man charged in connection with a blast that left six people dead in Washington County last year is headed to trial after appearing in court Friday. As YNN's Matt Hunter reports, victims' family members are outraged Steven McComsey nearly avoided trial with a plea deal.

FORT EDWARD, N.Y. – "To think somebody else would intentionally cause harm to somebody is just, it's unfathomable," Linda Porlier said Friday, standing outside the Washington County Courthouse.

Fifteen months ago, Porlier's life was forever changed. Her daughter, Clarissa, just 16, died in a horrific house explosion on Route 29 in Salem.

Also killed in the blast were five others, including Clarissa's boyfriend Lawrence Berg Jr. and his mother, Tammy Palmer, 41.

Eleven months after, Palmer's boyfriend, Steven McComsey, one of four who survived, was arraigned on eight charges, including six counts of manslaughter.

"Twelve people could sit down and take a look at that evidence and have no choice whatsoever between the circumstantial evidence and factual evidence that they have to come back with nothing else but a guilty plea," said Butch Hurlburt, who says state police investigators went over the case’s evidence with him but declined to offer specifics.

On Friday, both Hurlburt and Porlier were at the Washington County Courthouse for McComsey's latest court appearance. The 33-year-old rejected a plea deal to a lesser felony charge that carried a penalty of one to three years in prison. Under the current charges, he faces up to 15.

Neither Washington County District Attorney Kevin Kortright or McComsey's attorney, public defender Michael Mercure, would comment following the proceeding. However, several of the victims' family members say they're outraged a plea deal was even offered.

"It's ridiculous they would even offer him one to three [years],” Porlier said. “I mean, that's not even a year for every person that died."

"When you can justify a sentence of one to three out of someone who took six young lives, I mean, there's no justice whatsoever for those six young people that perished," Hurlburt said.

While McComsey told police investigators he smelled gas before the July 13th blast and admitted to checking the tank shortly before, his attorneys maintain his innocence. His next court date is set for October 24th.

"He's going to have to take responsibility for his actions at one time or another," Hurburt said.

Also on Friday, McComsey’s bail was lowered to $5,000. If he posts bail, he will be placed under house arrest with an ankle bracelet.

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