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BRATTLEBORO — Saying justice will be served, three of Steven Lovely's sisters stated their belief that his killer took advantage of Lovely's kindness.

"Steven took care of Justin and Tami and then this happened," said Billie-Jo Fournier, who traveled from Holyoke, Mass., for the arraignment of Justin Orwat for the aggravated murder of Lovely and his girlfriend, Amanda Sanderson, on Oct. 27 in Townshend.

Fournier said her brother had once introduced Orwat to her as his best friend, describing Lovely and Sanderson as kind-hearted and fun-loving people who took in the Orwats in their time of need."One-hundred and fifty years could go by and I still wouldn't be able to wrap my head around this," she said.

Orwat and his wife, Tami, were sharing a cabin on Shirley Circle in Townshend with Lovely and Sanderson. At around 9 a.m. on Oct. 27, fire departments from around the region responded to the cabin to find it in flames. When the conflagration was extinguished, two bodies were found in the rubble. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner determined Lovely and Sanderson had died of gunshot wounds. Tami Orwat told investigators her husband burned down the cabin to try to cover up the crime.

"I hope he never sees the light of day," said Fournier of Orwat, following the arraignment in Windham Superior Court, Criminal Division, on Monday afternoon.

Orwat, 46, of Springfield, Mass., is also charged with arson. Through his attorney, he pleaded not guilty. He was ordered held without bail.

"I hope he gets life," said Diane Lovely, of Agawam, Mass., one of Steven Lovely's sisters, following the arraignment.

During the investigation that followed the fire, detectives with the Vermont State Troopers learned Orwat and his wife had been living in the cabin with Lovely and Sanderson for about two weeks. Tami Orwat, 38, of Springfield, Mass., was located by investigators and Justin Orwat had been arrested the day of the fire in Springfield on outstanding warrants for larceny and shoplifting.

Tami Orwat told detectives that on Oct. 26 the four of them "spent a considerable amount of time" in the Bellows Falls home of Christopher Paige. While there, she said, the "group used drugs together." Orwat said she used heroin and cocaine while her husband and Lovely used heroin, cocaine, bath salts, marijuana and Klonopin.

Before they left Paige's home at about 5 a.m. on Oct. 27, "Lovely was boisterous concerning his knowledge that someone had been stealing from him," noted the affidavit. Tami Orwat told detectives she believed Lovely was blaming her husband. "Tami Orwat described a tense scene in the vehicle concerning this topic and said that it continued when they reached their home," stated the affidavit.

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Orwat noted that her husband attempted to speak to Lovely about the alleged thievery, but Lovely refused to discuss it. Instead, noted the affidavit, while at the cabin, Lovely gave Justin Orwat three bundles of heroin for his wife. A short while later, Justin Orwat told his wife to stay in the bedroom while he attempted "to clear the air with Lovely," according to court documents. Instead, Tami Orwat heard a loud argument followed by gunshots, punctuated with more arguing.

Eventually, Tami Orwat jumped out the window of her bedroom and fled to her vehicle, where she was joined by her husband. Justin Orwat "never told her definitively that he shot and killed Amanda Sanderson and Steven Lovely," stated the affidavit. "He did, however, say that the gun would likely be burned in the fire ... [telling her] ... he used a cigarette lit by a butane lighter to start it."

She also told detectives that when her husband got in the car he was crying "and told her if he had to go away for a long time that she had to promise not to leave him and to bring their daughter to him for visits," noted the affidavit. "She suspected he was crying because he felt guilty about what he had just done."

Orwat also allegedly told his wife that Lovely "was planning to kill them in the very near future." Tami Orwat told detectives that while she thinks her husband truly believed what he had said, "she believed that the bath salts he used earlier in the night made Justin paranoid and that ... Justin's use of Klonopin made him violent. She argued that absent his and Steven's use of drugs that night, this entire incident would not have happened."

During the fire investigation, the Vermont State Police Arson Investigation Unit "observed indicators that a liquid accelerant had been used" in at least nine locations to start the fire. It has not yet been determined what type of accelerant was used, but a detective noted an odor "consistent with gasoline." Detectives in Massachusetts located Orwat's vehicle, noticing a five-gallon can of gasoline in the vehicle in plain view.

According to court documents, Orwat has a lengthy criminal history, including a manslaughter charge from 1995 when, as an identified member of the Neta gang in Springfield, Mass., he had knowledge of the shooting death by one of his fellow gang members of a suspected member of a rival gang. It is unclear at this time what the resolution was for that charge.

On Oct. 5 of this year, the Bellows Falls Police Department conducted a motor vehicle stop of a vehicle being driven by Lovely. In the vehicle were Sanderson and the Orwats. After a search warrant was issued, officers discovered $47,000 in a case in the vehicle, as well as a white powder, trace amounts of marijuana and glassine bags. In 2015, after a traffic stop in Chicopee, Mass., Lovely was cited with possession with intent to distribute heroin, Oxycodone and Suboxone and possession of cocaine. Sanderson had also been in trouble with the law in the past, but for minor offenses such as possession of marijuana and driving with a suspended license.

And on Dec. 12, following an investigation that began five days after the deaths of Lovely and Sanderson, Christopher Paige, 37, and his girlfriend, Miranda Sevene, 23, were arrested. They have been charged with heroin distribution.

Bob Audette can be contacted at