Illinois landlord convicted in fire deaths

AP News
|
Posted: Nov 17, 2014 9:22 PM

CHICAGO (AP) — A suburban Chicago landlord was found guilty Monday in the deaths of seven people for a Valentine's Day 2010 apartment building fire that prosecutors said was set for insurance money.

Lawrence Myers, 64, was found guilty of seven counts of first-degree murder and of several counts of aggravated arson for hiring his building manager, Marion Andre Comier, 51, to set fire to the Cicero building to collect $250,000 in insurance money.

Killed in the fire were Byron Reed, 20; Sallie Gist, 18; their sons, 3-year-old Rayshawn Reed and 3-day-old Brian Reed; Gist's 16-year-old twin siblings, Elijah and Elisha Gist; and family friend Tiera Davidson, 18. Three Cicero firefighters were injured battling the blaze, which was set on a Sunday morning.

During Myers' two-day trial, the jury heard recordings of conversations between Myers and a friend who cooperated with investigators. On the tape, Myers talks about the scheme, saying he would have set the fire "in the afternoon, just before the kids got back from school."

Cook County jurors also heard from Bonita Robertson and her cousin, Brian Trent, who said Meyers asked Trent to torch the building.

Prosecutors said the fire was set on the back porch of the first floor of the two-story building, which had two two-bedroom apartments and two three-bedroom apartments. A first-floor rear apartment did not have any tenants. Fire investigators said the blaze spread quickly through the frame building, causing the roof to collapse and spreading to the second-floor attic where the victims were sleeping. Some who escaped the building awoke to the sound of screaming and banging coming from the attic.

The victims died from smoke inhalation, according to prosecutors.

Meyers faces a mandatory life sentence for this conviction, according to prosecutors. Comier is awaiting trial.