Man convicted of murdering former Oneonta firefighter sentenced to life in prison

Gabriel Truitt was sentenced to life in prison without parole on Friday, after he was convicted of murder and arson in January.

Posted: Jul 17, 2020 10:32 AM
Updated: Jul 17, 2020 6:02 PM

ONEONTA, N.Y. – Gabriel Truitt was sentenced to life in prison without parole on Friday, after he was convicted of murder and arson in January.

An Otsego County jury found Truitt guilty of first-degree murder, two counts of second-degree murder and arson.

Brent Kearney // WKTV

Former Oneonta firefighter John Heller was killed in the fire Truitt started on Walling Avenue in December of 2018.

Otsego County District Attorney John Muehl says Heller died in the fire after saving his fiancée and nephews from the burning building.

Muehl says although the video evidence presented in court was undeniable, Truitt refused to admit any guilt.

"He's never going to admit that he did it, even though we have it all on video. I mean we have on video him taking the accelerant out of his shop and we have him on video walking toward the building, and then we know from the tests that the scientists did that it was the alcohol that started the fire, so we know he did it. But he's never going to admit it. I was really happy that he got the maximum which I really thought he deserved in this case," he said.

Truitt's ex-girlfriend, Heather Engler, lived in the same building as Heller. Muehl argued that Truitt set fire to the building as retaliation against Engler, leading to Heller's death.

John Heller's sister in law gave an emotional statement directly to Truitt in court right before he was sentenced. Heller stating the impact Truitt's decision had on her family and her children.

"A 6-year old that doesn't fear monsters or boogyman or anything like that. Instead, he has nightmares about a bad man coming through his window and setting his bed on fire while he sleeps. Because at just 5 he had to learn that your face represents all that is evil in this world," said Heller

Truitt was sentenced to life without parole on the first-degree murder charge, and three terms of 25 years to life on each of the other charges.

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