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Arsonist gets 12 years for fire that killed horses

By Keith Coffman

DENVER (Reuters) - A Colorado man who admitted setting a stable fire that killed 12 horses, then lost an arm as he tried to hop a train to flee, was sentenced on Wednesday to 12 years in prison.

Narciso Amaya-Bustillos, 37, pleaded guilty in November to second-degree arson and aggravated animal cruelty for the May 9, 2010, fire in the northern Denver suburb of Commerce City.

When firefighters responded to the scene, horses that were locked in their stalls were frantic and in terror as flames engulfed the stable, according to the Adams County District Attorney's Office.

Twelve horses in the corral perished, along with several roosters, hens and a goat.

Days after arson investigators determined that the fire was intentionally set, Amaya-Bustillos lost an arm when he fell under a moving train as he tried to elude police after he was questioned about the blaze.

District Attorney Don Quick called the crime "inexcusable" because Amaya-Bustillos was responsible for killing defenseless animals even as he put rescue workers in harm's way.

"This is the most severe case of animal cruelty I have seen in my 20-plus years as a prosecutor," Quick said in a written statement.

Detective Michael Saunders, spokesman for Commerce City police, told Reuters that Amaya-Bustillos started the fire after an argument with other workers at the horse barn about a foot race, and "bad blood" he had with the stable's owners.

In imposing the prison sentence, Adams County District Judge Patrick Murphy also ordered Amaya-Bustillos to pay $149,380 in restitution.

(Editing by Steve Gorman and Dan Whitcomb)