Trial underway for Marian Williams, woman accused in homicide of three children

Reporter: Breana Ross Writer: Matthew Seaver
Published: Updated:

The trial for a 49-year-old woman accused of killing three boys began Monday morning after a week of jury selection.

Marian Williams is accused of burning down the Arcadia home of the three little boys while they were inside in 2017.

The Clark children—10-year-old Marcus, 8-year-old Kiani and 4-year-old Kemaren—were staying with their grandfather Arnold Mele, who is Williams’ ex.

Mele and his new girlfriend at the time were in the home. Mele suffered burns in his attempts to save his grandchildren.

The state wants the death penalty because it believes Williams started the fire on purpose.

Williams’ Defense Attorney Daniel Hernandez began the trial by asking for a mistrial because the jury was not representative of the community. He also claims that she was housed properly while awaiting trial.

The judge denied the request for a mistrial and decided to proceed.

Assistant State Attorney Cliff Ramey began the arguments as the prosecutor for the state. In his opening statement described the scene from the night of the fire. Telling the jury the story of the three kid’s grandfather and his girlfriend, Theresa Redding, discovering the flames and attempting to save them.

The prosecution also introduced several witnesses who claim they heard Williams threatening to kill the family and burn down the home less than a day before the fire.

They said investigators determined the fire was set intentionally at two separate locations inside the home.

Williams Defense Attorney Daniel Hernandez countered the prosecution’s claims during his opening statement. Hernandez said the evidence will show that Williams did not start the fire and that it may have been started on accident by one of the kids, or on purpose by someone who wanted to frame Williams.

The state’s first witness in the trial was former Arcadia Police Sergeant David Pitts. On the stand, Pitts told the jury how he responded to the home to find it engulfed in flames with people outside yelling that there were kids inside. He said that he tried to enter the home but couldn’t make it very far inside due to the smoke.

During the defense’s cross-examination, Pitts voiced his frustration with how long it took the fire department to arrive.

The state’s second witness was Arcadia Police Lieutenant Quinn Jones. He spoke about a call he responded to at the house on March 10th, before the fire, that resulted in Williams being arrested and charged with burglary and battery. He says she did not resist or try to run during the arrest.

Fontella Luther was the third witness for the state. Luther is the mother of Arnold Mele’s neighbor Bruce Blanden. She said that she grew up with Williams. Luther claims she heard Williams threaten to burn Mele’s house down.

The defense asked if she would agree that it would be illogical for Williams to shout that she was going to commit a crime. A question the prosecution objected to for being too speculative.

The state’s fourth witness Emette Grubbs came under fire from the defense for not being a credible witness. Grubbs said that he heard Williams threaten Mele but said he was asleep during the fire and never heard Williams talk about burning anything. Grubbs has a criminal record and said he was not offered any kind of deal in return for testifying.

Kenya Lindsay, the mother of the three kids who were killed also took the stand on Monday. Just saying their names brought her to tears.

Lindsay wasn’t the only one who got emotional while testifying. Neighbor Bruce Blanden also broke down while describing his attempts to save the kids from the flames. “That’s when I tried to open the front door but the knob was really really really hot. I ran to the back door and when I got to the back door I couldn’t open the back door. It was stuck or locked…I don’t know. I couldn’t get in the back door so I ran to the side window and that’s when I heard the boys screaming. It appeared to be the oldest and he kept saying ‘Granddaddy, granddaddy, help!.’ He said it three times then I didn’t hear him anymore. It sounded like he was fading.”

Blanden said that shortly before the fire started he saw Williams bike to the home and climb into a window. The defense says Williams wasn’t there when the fire started and therefore could not have started it.

So far only the prosecution has been able to call witnesses. The defense will have a chance to argue their side of the case and bring their own witnesses to the stand as the trial continues.

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