Jury finds Marian Williams guilty in the death of 3 children in an arson fire

Marian Williams has been found guilty of the first degree by a jury in the death of three children in an arson fire.

Day five of the trial for 49-year-old Williams got underway at 9 a.m. Friday and wrapped up at 2:15, with deliberations lasting just over two hours.

Williams was found guilty on three counts of first-degree murder; two counts of attempted first-degree murder; arson; and burglary of an occupied dwelling.

Williams showed no emotions as the verdict was read. As for the community where the young boys once played, emotions run high and a gaping hole is still in their hearts. Neighbors in Arcadia say the pain of losing these kids will never go away.

Rose Daughma says it feels empty without the boys. “I would sit out here and they would be out there. I miss them,” Daughma said.

The jury in the death penalty case is made up of 12 jurors and six alternates.

The penalty phase of the case begins on Monday where the state and the defense will get a chance to make their case to the same jury for or against the death penalty for Williams.

Instead of the death penalty, jurors could recommend life in prison without parole.  The jury will also be able to hear new evidence, including aggravated circumstances.

Pamella Seay is a Professor of Justice Studies at FGCU. “For example, the victims and how young they were. How heinous and cruel was this crime? How much premeditation did she have in this?” They also have to check out the mitigating circumstances. “Perhaps looking at the character of the defendant,” said Seay.

But the defining moment may be the victim impact statements that are to come. “The victim impact here is very important and I think that will have a big play on what the jury should decide,” Seay said.

Eddie Smith lives in Arcadia and believes the verdict was correct. “They were justified by bringing a guilty verdict because what she did, human beings don’t do that,” Smith said.

Williams, who did not take the stand, killed 8-year-old Kiani Clark, 10-year-old Marcus Clark, and 4-year-old Kemaren Clark in 2017 after setting a home on fire that was owned by her ex-boyfriend Arnold Mele, the boy’s grandfather.

The house where those three boys died used to stand in a place that a park now occupies as a way to memorialize them. And, their grandfather visits the Clark Brothers Memorial Park every night. Makayla Mosner lives in Arcadia. “He comes down to this park almost every night and he sits here for a good two hours. He either reads a book, and he cries, and he.. or he’s happy and he just sits here and smiles,” Mosner said.

The park is a painful reminder for the community as well. “My grandbabies, some of them go over there and play because they don’t really understand. It will never go away,” said Daughma.

“That was very bad and it messed up the whole neighborhood,” said Smith.

Prosecutors rested their case Thursday morning after jurors listened to the testimony from Medical Examiner Dr. Phoutthasone Thirakul who spoke about the condition of the bodies of the three children found inside the burned-down home.

The three boys died of smoke inhalation and the autopsy showed they were alive as they burned, Thirakul said. Some of the jurors cried as they heard descriptions of what happened to the three boys.

The judge denied a request for a judgment of acquittal from the defense team, who said there was insufficient evidence in the case.

The defense argued Williams was never in the home and not responsible for the fire, and also put Williams’ 15-year-old granddaughter on the stand who said Williams was asleep next to her in the same bed.

Prosecutors argued that from 1 a.m. to 6 a.m. the granddaughter didn’t know where Williams was, and that another witness saw Williams at a party at 1:30 a.m. the night of the fire and therefore could not have been with the granddaughter at the same time.

Prosecutors argued Williams set Mele’s home on fire with the intent of killing his entire family. Jurors agreed.

Judge Don T. Hall in the 12th Circuit Court is presiding over the case in DeSoto County.

If the jury recommends the death penalty and the judge agrees, Williams will join three other women on death row in Florida. There are 302 men on death row.

Reporter:Breana Ross
Amanda Porter
Writer:Melissa Montoya
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