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Father of girls who died in Christmas Day fire seeks control of estate

Madonna and Matthew Badger cry during the arrival of their daughters' caskets at Saint Thomas Church in New York on Jan. 5, 2012. At the rear, holding their shoulders, is her boyfriend Michael Borcina.

The father of three girls who died in a raging Christmas Day fire in Connecticut is seeking to administer their estate, a maneuver that would allow him to represent it in any potential lawsuit -- about which no decision has been made, his attorney said Monday.

The estate filing was made last Thursday in Stamford Probate Court on behalf of Matthew Badger, whose daughters -- 10-year-old Lilly and 7-year-old twins Grace and Sarah -- perished in the blaze in Stamford.

"All it seeks is a very simple thing: to appoint Matt Badger as an administrator of his children’s estate," said his attorney, Richard Emery. "In order for him to represent the estate in any potential lawsuit -- about which there’s been no decision whatsoever -- he has to be the administrator of the estate. So that’s a prerequisite but it’s by no means a commitment to sue or even a decision to sue."

The girls' grandparents, Lomer and Pauline Johnson, also died in the fire. Their mother, Madonna Badger, and her boyfriend, Michael Borcina, a contractor who was renovating the Stamford home, escaped without serious injury.  

Authorities established that embers in a bag of discarded ashes started the blaze.

"There are certainly very substantial concerns about his (Borcina) having allowed kids to live there while he was the contractor in that event," Emery said. "The fact that there was a severe fire hazard there, there’s no doubt about that."

The New York Post first reported about the estate filing, saying it could be used for a potential wrongful death claim.

"There are any number of possibilities, none of which have been decided upon," Emery said. "This is just a preliminary matter and it preserves the right to do things later on. But it certainly does not commit us to any course of action."

A judge would likely make a decision on the estate filing within a month, said Emery.

"The kids had some property and that property has to be disposed of and ... that (having estate control) also would give him the authority to dispose of that property," he added.

According to CBS 2, construction workers told police the alarms and extinguishers had been taken out of the house and stored in the garage, as painters began working on the interior.

The police investigation was ongoing -- about 90 percent complete -- but they were expecting to meet on Tuesday with the local state’s attorney about their findings thus far, said Capt. Richard Conklin, of the police's bureau of criminal investigations.

They will be "giving him a large portion of our investigation even though it’s not complete, so he can start reviewing that and come up to speed and see if he has any input or additional questions," Conklin said, adding that he could not comment on their findings. "It’s such a lengthy, large investigation that we want to get him what we have so far so he can begin to digest it."

Emery noted that: "We have and we are continuing to conduct a very thorough and intense investigation of what occurred there."

Madonna Badger attempted to take her own life in late January, reports said. Her attorney, Stan Twardy, Jr., declined to comment on the filing. A call placed to Borcina's attorney was not immediately returned.

Emery said his client was working on a foundation in memory of his children to help other youth and to help avoid such disasters, but he was "a complete wreck."

"It’s unimaginable how depressed and upset he is. ... His whole life is burned up in that fire," he said.

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