Former Evergreen Director Pleads Not Guilty to Reckless Endangerment Charge


Denise Kerr, the former director of the Evergreen Assisted Living Facility in Spring Valley, is now the last of the six suspects to be arrested and arraigned following an investigation into the cause of the fire that destroyed the facility and claimed the lives of volunteer firefighter Jared Lloyd and resident Oliver Hueston last March

The 51-year-old Brooklyn resident turned herself in to Rockland County District Attorney Investigators on Tuesday morning. She was arraigned in the Village of Spring Valley Justice Court before Honorable David Fried on her misdemeanor charge of Reckless Endangerment in the second degree. Kerr entered a plea of not guilty and was released on her own recognizance. The next appearance is scheduled for October 12, 2021.

The criminal complaint leveled against Kerr alleges that the former director allowed and observed the conduct of Nathaniel and Aaron Sommer, the men accused of starting the fire. Kerr is accused of allowing the men to use a blowtorch to clean one of the ovens in the home despite “knowledge that no operating permit for any use of a lit torch had been issued, no “prework check” report had been conducted, no signs or warnings that a lit torch was being utilized were posted, no shielding to prevent sparks, slag or heat from igniting combustibles had been erected, and no “fire watch” was conducted at any time period when the torch was being utilized inside the kitchen.” It is also claimed that Kerr knew the alarm system was placed on “test” mode.

Nathaniel Sommer and his son Aaron Sommer are face multiple charges of manslaughter, arson, assault and reckless endangerment. If found guilty, they could each be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison. The Sommers were each released on $200,000 bail and are scheduled to appear in court on Aug. 31.

Wayne Ballard and Raymond Canario, both former Spring Valley village building inspectors, were also arrested in connection with the inferno and are accused of falsifying records related to the facility. Manuel Lema, a former Evergreen employee, pleaded not guilty on July 6 to criminal impersonation and obstructing governmental administration.

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