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Family of mother, daughter killed in apartment arson file lawsuit

A teen pleaded guilty and another is being evaluated for competency in the 2022 Lakewood arson that killed Kathleen Payton and Jazmine Payton-Aguayo.

LAKEWOOD, Colo. — The family of a mother and daughter who died in a 2022 arson in Lakewood filed a wrongful death lawsuit Monday against the two teens arrested in the deadly fire, the apartment management company and a limited liability company in Florida.

Kathleen Payton, 31, and her 10-year-old daughter, Jazmine Payton-Aguayo, were killed in the fire Oct. 31, 2022, at the Tiffany Square Apartments on Sheridan Boulevard. In all, 10 people were injured in the fire. Seven people, including a firefighter, were treated and released. At least 14 apartments were damaged by the fire, and the residents of all 32 units were displaced.

The lawsuit was filed in Denver District Court by Payton's adoptive mother and Payton-Aguayo's father as the plaintiffs. They are seeking an undefined amount in damages against the teens, EWGP Associates, LLC and Avail Property Management, Inc. The lawsuit requested a jury trial.

The lawsuit claims EWGP and Avail Property Management failed to act reasonably in their obligation to provide a safe and secure environment for the mother and daughter, that Tiffany Square Apartments had no working smoke detectors attached to common walkways connecting each apartment, and that Tiffany Square Apartments had no working fire alarm system. 

West Metro Fire said there are no common hallways at Tiffany Square Apartments, rather they're individual units that exit outside. They added that there are no requirements in the fire code for smoke detectors outside a building. Interconnected fire alarm systems would be required if the building was undergoing extensive remodeling, that would then initiate a retroactive installation, West Metro Fire said.

"The plaintiffs are going to say, regardless of what the code said, this is foreseeable, it is foreseeable, a fire could start with all these people here and without an extinguisher system, without an alarm system, somebody could die just like this," said Whitney Traylor, 9NEWS legal analyst. "So that is the law. Did the landowner, did the owner of the apartment, have a duty, did they breach that duty, and was the breach of that duty the cause of these damages?"

Two teen boys were charged as juveniles in connection with the fire. One of those boys, now 15, pleaded guilty in July to: 

  • Two counts of first-degree murder
  • One count of attempted first-degree murder
  • One count of first-degree arson
  • Two aggravated juvenile offender sentence enhancers

Prosecutors said Tuesday that as a result of the plea, the boy was considered an aggravated juvenile offender and faced five to seven years in the Division of Youth Services. In October, a judge imposed the maximum sentence of seven years, with 113 days of pre-sentence confinement credit. 

The younger teen charged in the case is set to appear in court for a status hearing Nov. 13. His competency to stand trial is being evaluated, prosecutors said.

"You can then sue everybody, everyone who may be liable, so if there was a product manufacturer that didn’t work, the landlord, the person who caused it, the kids if they’re minors, their parents as well," Traylor said. "But it sounded like in the complaint, defined the kids as runaways, we don’t know if the parents are in the picture." 

In a December preliminary hearing, a Lakewood Police detective testified the suspects were angry after getting kicked out of an apartment in the complex, and at least one sought retaliation before the fire.

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