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Testimony Continues in Arson, Murder Trial

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Four young children died as a result of this deliberately set Feburary, 1996 fire.
RALEIGH — The prosecution in the Jermaine Smith trial is nearing the end of itscase and may wrap-up Friday.

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

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

Later, Lorenzo Jones, father of two children involved in the fire andprosecution witness, had to leave the courtroom briefly after cursing atthe 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 lastyear has, so far, picked apart testimony from the teen who says she sawJermaine Smith in the moments leading up to the crime. Ebony Wilder lostfour siblings in the fire in February of last year.

After evidence of some conflicting stories Wednesday, she again took thestand 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 aboutthat night. Rudy's sister and mother blame Smith for the deaths, but thedefense says they've changed their stories, and that they bowed to policeinterrogation just after the fire.

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

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

Photographer:Ron Pittman

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