Trial begins for man accused of starting fire that killed 3 in Pittsburgh’s Homewood neighborhood

PITTSBURGH — Martell Smith is on trial and facing the death penalty because investigators say he set fire to a house in Homewood, and killed Sandra Douglas, Shamira Staten, and her 4-year-old daughter, Chyenne Manning, who all lived in the home.

The deadly fire happened five days before Christmas back in 2017, in the middle of the night.

We heard opening statements from the prosecutors and defense, plus witness testimony from the sole survivor of the fire, Cecil Douglas, who jumped from the burning building.

Cecil’s wife, Sandra, was killed in the fire, and he testified that when they realized the house was on fire, they couldn’t get downstairs because of the thick smoke and flames.

He crawled on the floor to a window, and yelled for his wife to follow — but she didn’t make it.

Police say Smith broke into the home, doused the first floor in gasoline, and set fire to it after an argument with Cecil’s stepson.

Sandra’s daughter intentionally wore a necklace for the trial that has all three victims’ pictures in it.

“I feel kind of crazy. I want to scream, I want to yell, I want to stick my finger up, I want to hit him, I want to do a lot of things. But at the end of the day we are leaving it in God’s hands. The community is very upset about what happened,” she said.

The trial resumes tomorrow.

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