Retrial for man charged with the city's deadliest fire is underway

Antun Lewis (Source: WOIO)
Antun Lewis (Source: WOIO)

The retrial of Antun Lewis, the man charged with setting the deadliest fire in Cleveland's history, is now underway in Cleveland federal court.

On  May 21, 2005 a fire ripped through a home on East 87th Street killing a woman and eight children at a birthday sleep over.

Four thousand people attended the victim's funerals that were held together at the Cleveland Convention Center.

Antun Lewis was arrested days later, and while prosecutors had no clear motive, they said Lewis set the fire in an act of revenge because one of the occupants of the home owed a drug debt.

Lawyers for Lewis said their client had behavioral problems and a lower than average IQ, and claim he was railroaded by overzealous prosecutors who used testimony from non-credible jail house informants to attain a conviction.

But a federal judge delayed sentencing while Lewis motioned for a new trial.

In February of 2012 the sixth circuit court of appeals unanimously granted that a new trial, which began this month and included testimony today from a roommate of Lewis. The roommate said that Lewis smelled of gasoline when he spoke with him after the deadly fire.

The trial is scheduled to resume Monday at 9 a.m.

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