Local News

Testimony Continues in Arson, Murder Trial

Posted October 16, 1997 12:00 a.m. EDT

— The prosecution in the Jermaine Smith trial is nearing the end of its case and may wrap-up Friday.

Prosecutors have struggled at times, as they tried to build a case against Smith, who is on trial for Raleigh's deadliest arson. Several witnesses have testified that they saw Smith at the Heritage Park apartments the night of the fire, but the defense has pointed out that each witness told a different story to police.

Thursday, 13-year old Rudy Wilder, who escaped the fire, refused to answer certain questions as to why his story changed.

Later, Lorenzo Jones, father of two children involved in the fire and prosecution witness, had to leave the courtroom briefly after cursing at the judge. Before he was taken into custody, Jones was asked if he was angry about the case involving Smith.

The defense in the trial of a man charged with setting a deadly fire last year has, so far, picked apart testimony from the teen who says she saw Jermaine Smith in the moments leading up to the crime. Ebony Wilder lost four siblings in the fire in February of last year.

After evidence of some conflicting stories Wednesday, she again took the stand Thursday and stuck to her story that she witnessed Smith with a gas can inside the apartment the night of the fire.

Rudy Wilder, Ebony's 13-year-old brother, took the stand and talked about that night. Rudy's sister and mother blame Smith for the deaths, but the defense says they've changed their stories, and that they bowed to police interrogation just after the fire.

More than a year and a half ago that fire killed four of Angela Wilder's children. Stories about just what happened that night keep changing while a man's life hinges on the jury's decision.

The Wilder family first told police Jermaine Smith would not have hurt them, but now they blame him for a deadly fire.

Photographer:Ron Pittman