WALLA WALLA, Wash. – The man who caused the deaths of four Seattle firefighters in 1995 is scheduled to walk out of prison a free man on Thursday, according to the Department of Corrections.
When he leaves the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla, Martin Shaw Pang will have served about 20 years of a 35-year sentence for four counts of first-degree manslaughter. His early releases date is based off earned “good time” while behind bars.
On January 5, 1995, Pang set fire to his family’s warehouse in Seattle’s International District to collect insurance money. Four firefighters – Lt. Walter Kilgore, Lt. Gregory Shoemaker, Randy Terlicker, and James Brown – died battling the blaze.
“I knew it was coming, but it’s still a bitter pill to swallow,” retired Seattle Police Department homicide detective Cloyd Steiger told Q13 News This Morning, speaking about Pang’s imminent release.
Steiger, who was part of a task force assigned to the case in 1995, said he always believed that Pang deserved to die in prison.
“This is what he was sentenced to. There’s nothing anybody can do about it now,” he said. “But just remember … there are four families that will never get over this, and then there’s the extended family of the firefighters that worked with him that will never get over this. It’s just sad that this guy is going to walk free again.”
Following the deadly arson in 1995, Pang fled to Brazil to avoid extradition to the United States. While prosecutors back in Washington State originally charged him with four counts of felony murder, those charges were reduced to manslaughter in a deal that would guarantee Pang was returned for trial.
In a statement this week, Seattle Fire Department Chief Harold Scoggins said Pang’s release opens old wounds.
“On Jan. 5, 1995, Martin Pang set a warehouse fire that took the lives of Lieutenant Walter Kilgore, Lieutenant Gregory Shoemaker, Firefighter James Brown and Firefighter Randall Terlicker. Their immediate families and the Seattle Fire family have spent the last 23 years healing from this tragedy,” Chief Scoggins wrote. “The recent news that Pang will be released from prison brings back painful memories for the department and the community. Out of respect for the families and department members, we will not conduct any interviews with media. We appreciate the support from our community members during this time.”
Detective Steiger, who wrote about the case in his book Homicide: The View From Inside the Yellow Tape, described Pang as a dangerous man who was abusive toward women. He said Tuesday that he believes Pang poses a high risk of re-offending.
"Martin Pang is a psychopath and a narcissist and I have very little doubt that he'll re-offend once he gets out," he said.
Steiger had one final message for Pang once he's released:
"Don't get used to this, because I'm sure you'll be back."