Arson fire killed woman, eight kids: Man found guilty a second time

Antun Lewis is shown in a photo released by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. Anonymous / AP

A man accused of killing a woman and eight children in a Cleveland arson fire was found guilty for a second time on Friday.

Antun Lewis was convicted of arson resulting in death by a federal jury that decided after several hours of deliberations that he set the house ablaze in 2005. The children, ages 7-14, were at the home for a birthday sleepover.

Many of the victims' family members were in the courtroom and wept openly at the jury's decision, NBC station WKYC of Cleveland reported. Some said they hope the end of the case will bring them closure.

Lewis was first convicted in 2011, but that decision was overturned by U.S. District Court Judge Solomon Oliver Jr., who ruled that some of the prosecution's witnesses were unreliable, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported.

Lewis, 29, of Cleveland, was stoic as the verdict was read, the Plain Dealer reported. After his conviction Friday, Lewis's attorneys said they disagreed with the jury’s findings.

“We truly believe that the charges in this case were so horrific, with the deaths of the children and the mother, that the community wanted to hold someone responsible, in spite of what the evidence showed,” defense attorney Angelo Lonardo told the Plain Dealer.

The maximum sentence for arson resulting in death is life in prison. Sentencing for Lewis is set for March 18. Oliver previously ruled that Lewis' IQ was too low for him to receive the death penalty, Reuters reported. Reuters also said the case was prosecuted in federal court because the woman received federal housing assistance. 

A February 2012 file photo shows stuffed animals left as a memorial on the steps of the burned-out house where a woman and eight people died in Cleveland in 2005. Tony Dejak / AP