‘We never gave up’; Sister of girl killed 20 years ago in house fire speaks out after man charged with her murder
ROCHESTER, N.Y. – The sister of Savannah Streber, the 8-year-old girl killed 20 years ago in a Rochester house fire, spoke out after a man was charged with her sister’s murder.
Monroe County Court unsealed an indictment Friday morning that charges Timothy Kuhn, 63, with second-degree murder and arson. Investigators say he intentionally started the house fire in February of 2004 at 17 Yates Street that killed Savannah.
Kelly, the sister of Savannah, spoke at a Friday news conference alongside Rochester Police Department members.
“We never gave up, we never stopped fighting, and we’re not done yet. Savannah, you have never been forgotten. Let’s get this conviction,” Kelly said.
During the conference, RPD Chief David Smith explained how the work of Sgt. David Joseph helped to lead investigators to Kuhn.
“Despite exhaustive investigative efforts, the case went cold but was never forgotten,” Chief Smith said. “All the while, the family fought to keep this case in the public eye in hopes of developing enough information with hopes of bringing the person responsible to justice.”
Starting in 2018, Joseph began combing through evidence with the help of the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office. He also followed up with family members including Savannah’s mom, Lisa, and her sisters Kelly and Alex.
Joseph traveled to multiple states in search of answers alongside federal officials with the ATF, who work with Rochester Police and firefighters on the city’s arson task force. That investigation led to U.S. Marshals arresting Kuhn in Holmes County, Florida on Dec. 28 and extraditing him to Rochester.
Joseph spoke at the news conference, saying investigators worked with whatever information they had to follow up with people and ultimately make the arrest.
“When it’s a cold case like this, when you get more information, you got to reach out to others to put the puzzle together,” Joseph said. “There wasn’t any huge piece that came forward but it was just some more information that we got and we were able to work with it.”
The house fire 20 years ago broke out when Lisa, Savannah’s mother, was at work. Four people were home at the time: Savannah, her 3-year-old sister Alex, a babysitter, and the babysitter’s 11-year-old son.
The babysitter’s son was the first to see the fire and ran to a neighbor’s house for help. After that, the babysitter rushed to wake Savannah and Alex, but once outside, the babysitter realized Savannah wasn’t with them. She tried to run back into the house but the fire was too intense.
When firefighters put out the fire, they found Savannah’s body inside of her mother’s bedroom. They believe she ran into the room to looking for her mom. Soon, investigators determined that the fire, which started on the back porch, was intentionally set.
At the conference, Chief Smith said that Kuhn became a person of interest early on because of his “volatile relationship” with Savannah’s mother. At the time of the fire, Lisa had a no contact order of protection against Kuhn from a recent assault.
Kuhn was arraigned on Friday morning and he is being held without bail in the Monroe County Jail.