Image: Juwan Deering
Richard Lee  /  AP
Juwan Deering listens during his sentencing Wednesday in Pontiac, Mich. Deering was convicted of setting a house fire that killed children ranging in age from 5 to 11.
updated 8/24/2006 3:47:55 PM ET 2006-08-24T19:47:55

A man convicted of setting a house fire that killed five children over an unpaid drug debt has been sentenced to life in prison.

A jury convicted Juwan Deering, 35, this month of setting the April 6, 2000, blaze. At Wednesday’s sentencing hearing, Deering tried to proclaim his innocence, but Oakland Circuit Judge Wendy Potts advised him to save his remarks for an appeal.

Witnesses at the trial said Deering told him he set the fire to “send a message” to the former boyfriend of Marie Dean, the mother of four of the victims, to close out an unpaid drug debt.

The victims were Taleigha Dean, 10; Craig Dean, 8; Aaron Dean, 7; Eugene Dean, 5; and the siblings’ 11-year-old friend, Michelle Frame.

During his trial, witnesses testified that Deering had nightmares of the dead children coming to talk to him.

“I will pray for you to be healthy and live a long life so that you may have more dreams of my children for the rest of your days,” Marie Dean said in a statement read by a prosecutor before the sentencing hearing.

Dean was in the courtroom but was too distressed to read the statement herself.

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