The trial for Marian Williams entered its third day of testimony from state witnesses on Wednesday. Williams is accused of starting a fire that killed three young boys in 2017.
Tuesday’s proceedings were filled with emotional testimony from Arnold Mele and Theresa Redding, the two survivors of the fire. You can find a summary of Tuesday’s testimony by clicking here.
Day three began with a request from the defense to recall Arnold Mele to the stand and question him at the request of Marian Williams. The defense said it wants to ask Mele about discrepancies between his testimony and deposition. Mele will not return to court until Thursday because he needs a translator and one wasn’t available on short notice Tuesday.
The state continued its arguments by calling Highlands County Sheriff’s Office Forensic Technician Jason Dionne to the stand. He examined Marian Williams’ phone and phone records. Deputy Dionne said that Williams called Mele twice early in the morning on March 10 using a *67 caller ID blocker, the same morning that Mele testified he was attacked by Williams. Deputy Dionne said that Mele also called Williams on March 10, but Williams didn’t answer.
Deputy Dionne testified that he did not find anything threatening or ominous records or messages in the phone records.
Prosecutors then brought Marian Williams’ life-long friend Sandra Williams to the stand. Sandra testified that she saw Marian on March 10. She said Marian was having trouble, “she told me she was hearing voices and she had a hard time controlling her temper. Told her to pray about it when she was having trouble controlling her temper and hearing voices.”
Sandra said she lent Marian a blue lighter that Marian kept. Police seized that lighter from Marian Williams when they made contact with her after the fire. Sandra also testified that she saw Marian riding the same bike that other witnesses describe seeing Marian on at Arnold Mele’s home before the fire. Police found Marian and her bike at her daughter’s home after the fire.
Detective Jeffery Batz, a detective with the Bureau of Fire, Arson, and Explosives Investigations, was brought to the stand to explain his findings from the fire. Detective Batz testified that his investigation of the house led him to conclude the fire started in two separate locations. One fire starting on top of a dresser in a bedroom adjacent to the bedroom the boys were in, the other from a chair in the living room.
“The only way for this fire to have started is by human intervention, somebody applying some kind of open flame device to the materials in both locations,” said Detective Batz during his testimony. He said he ruled out all accidental sources for the fire and testified that a small lighter could ignite the fire that burned down the home but did not say definitively that a lighter was the ignition source.
A separate forensic expert also testified that a piece of fabric he was asked to test was found to have gasoline on it, but was unable to say where the fabric came from.
Prosecutors said that a lab found gasoline on the black jacket that Marain Williams was seen wearing the night of the fire.