Pregnant when she was arrested four days after the fire, Barnes had faced up to 120 years behind bars. She was awaiting trial in a Framingham, Mass., prison when King and wife Debb, 46, spotted her photograph in a newspaper and discovered that she was the biological sister of their adopted daughter Jennifer, 17. Stunned, they raised her $25,000 bail and brought her home to Ellsworth. Julie—a high school dropout who took special-education classes—has reportedly bonded remarkably well with Jennifer, who was a sickly baby when a state social agency took her from the girls' mother, deemed unable to care for her. "I expected more difficulties," says Debb, a travel agent, "but Julie's a wonderful kid." The Kings have also filed to become the foster parents of Joshua, the baby boy Julie delivered in prison in June.
Worcester's district attorney has until Oct. 19 to appeal Judge Hillman's ruling. Families of the fire's victims haven't commented. But District Chief Michael McNamee, 50, who commanded those who died fighting the blaze, says the decision may aid the healing process. "This is another step along the way," he says. "It's good to be moving on."