A so-called "arson man" who committed what prosecutors called a "horrific crime," has been found guilty of setting a house on fire which resulted in the deaths of a woman and eight children while they were at a birthday sleepover. The Columbus Dispatch reported on Dec. 16 that the arson man, 30-year-old Antun Lewis, was responsible for the deadliest house fire in Cleveland, Ohio history.
A federal jury convicted Lewis, an ex-drug dealer, of arson resulting in death last week and sentencing is scheduled for March 18, 2104.
“We truly believe that the charges in this case were so horrific, with the deaths of the children and the mother, that the community wanted to hold someone responsible, in spite of what the evidence showed,” defense attorney Angelo Lonardo stated.
It took the jury only a few hours of deliberations to find the arson man guilty of intentionally setting the house ablaze in 2005 which killed eight children, ages 7-14.
The conviction of the cold-blooded arson man was the second time he was found guilty of arson resulting in death. He could get a maximum sentence of life in prison for the heinous crime. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that the arson man's first trial took place in 2011. He was found guilty then but a U.S. District Court reversed the decision because some of the prosecution’s witnesses were unreliable.
During the trial of the arson man, several of the victims' family members were in the courtroom and they let out a loud sigh of relief after the guilty verdict was read. Following the decision, a few of the family members spoke to the media and they said that the guilty verdict will help bring them closure.
The arson man will not receive the death penalty because he was deemed mentally disabled after the defense team presented evidence that showed he has an extremely low IQ.