Nearly four years ago, Brian Kyle “BK” Frizzell lost his sister, Haley Frizzell, and roommate David Angel Ortiz to a fire that was deliberately set at the Iconic Village Apartments in San Marcos. Haley, 19, was the youngest of five victims – along with Dru Estes, 20; Belinda Moats, 21; Ortiz, 21; and James Philip Miranda, 23 – who lost their lives on July 20, 2018.
The still-unsolved case inspired BK to create “The Weight of Ashes,” a 73-minute documentary focusing on each victim’s family and BK’s best friend, Zachary Sutterfield, who suffered burns on 70% of his body and lost his hands.
“When I was in the hospital one time visiting Zach, his mom started talking to me about maybe making a documentary about the whole thing, and at the time I humored her; I was like, ‘yeah, that might be a good idea.’ But really I was thinking, ‘there’s no way in hell I would ever do that,’” Frizzell said. “But as time went on, we didn’t have any answers. We still, to this day, don’t know who lit the fire. Who’s responsible for all this? And, I thought that we needed to do something to bring it back into the light and get people to talk about it again.”
The documentary took two years to make and is Frizzell’s first feature film since graduating from Texas State University, where his sister and the other victims were enrolled.
“Really it was hard because, it’s just a lot of emotional weight with every person I talk to, and even most of the crew knew my sister, or at least they know me,” Frizzell said. “So it was difficult to sit there and ask people to relive their trauma or talk about it more than they usually ever do. And then, you know, having to talk about it myself was difficult.”
The film was first screened last month at Texas State, where several hundred people attended, including the victims’ families and loved ones.
“I think it was pretty powerful. I think it had the intended effect. A lot of my family and the families of those who passed told me that it was exactly what they were hoping for,” Frizzell said. “I saw a little bit of some family reconciliation at the end of the screening.”
Frizzell’s next step is to take the documentary on the road to festivals for more people to see it and hopefully get it picked up by a streaming platform soon. Above all, he hopes that this film will bring answers and closure to the victims’ families and his own.
“Everybody has their own way of grieving, but at the heart and soul of it all is, you know, we all feel pain. We all miss our loved ones. And when they’re gone, essentially, we all feel the same way,” he said.
Frizzell said any proceeds made from the film will go toward the $110,000 reward still being offered for information leading to the identification or arrest of the person who ignited the fire.
To report any information about the 2018 Iconic Village apartment fire, call 1-888-ATF-TIPS or email ATFTIPS@atf.gov.