Late Friday, convicted arsonist Antun Lewis, 30, was sentenced to 35 years in prison for setting a house fire that killed 9 people, including a woman and eight children.
It was the deadliest fire in Cleveland’s history.
The prosecutors and the the victims’ families had asked for life in prison.
Lewis was found guilty twice by federal juries.
Medeia Carter, 33, four of her children and four other children attending a 14th-birthday sleepover died on May 21, 2005 at an East 87th Street home.
Carter’s mother, Evelyn Martin, spoke at the hearing, recounting the horrific events of that late night and early morning. Six of the eight children who died were Martin’s grandchildren. She said she rushed to the house when she learned of the fire, pushed through a crowd and screamed one question over and over: “Where are my babies?”
“I had to stand there and watch them bring them out one by one,” Martin said.
She recalled seeing some of her grandchildren zipped in body bags and the horrible sight of skin falling off one of her grandsons, who later died.
“I hope you live long enough so all the skin falls off your damned body,” she said, glaring at Lewis, who did not look at her.
There was powerful and graphic testimony from Battallion Fire Chief Patrick Mangan who described the hellish sights, sounds and smells of the deadly inferno.
In that house fire, killed were: Fakih Jones, age 7; Malee’ya Williams, age 12; Shauntavia Mitchell, age 12; Earnest Tate, Jr., age 13; Miles Golden Cockfield, age 13; Antwon Jackson, Jr., age 14; Moses Williams Jr., age 14; Devonte Carter, age 15, and Medeia Carter, 33.
Lewis will get credit for time already served so his sentence will be less than 35 years.
One victim’s father said Lewis should be placed in a giant and oil-filled skilled and suffer excruciating burns.
Rosalind Golden, whose 13-year-old grandson, Miles Cockfield, was killed in the fire, looked at Lewis and told him he had deprived the world of a wonderful person.
“I don’t mean to cry every day,” she said, fighting back tears. “I pray to God just not to cry today.”
“This defendant is responsible for taking nine innocent lives. A coward in the night, he also stole the hopes and dreams of these families, who will never get to experience high school graduations, weddings, or the other things they had a right to enjoy. Nothing can ever erase the pain this defendant caused, and our hearts go to them all. Their grace and dignity in the face of this tragedy is humbling,” said U.S. Attorney Steve Dettelbach.
Source: USA Today | Tom Beres, WKYC-TV, Cleveland