Ohio mom who started house fire, killing kids seeks new trial

Feb. 27, 2014 at 6:21 PM

CLEVELAND, Feb. 27 (UPI) -- Prosecutors in Ohio say a mother convicted in 2001 of setting a fire in her home that killed her two daughters should not be retried.

Angela Garcia was sentenced to two life terms in prison for the Nov. 20, 1999, fire at her home in Cleveland that killed her daughters Nyeemah Garcia, 3, and Nijah Evans, 2, The (Cleveland) Plain-Dealer reported.

She was convicted in a third trial in the case; during the first two trials, juries were unable to decide unanimously whether she had intentionally set the fire.

In December, Assistant State Public Defender Joanna Feigenbaum filed a request that Garcia receive a retrial based on unreliable fire "science" being presented at her trials and new scientific evidence being available.

Feigenbaum said studies, reports and a fire investigation expert show that testimony given at Garcia's trial was highly questionable.

Detectives originally said the fire was accidental, likely started by an unattended candle, but changed the cause later after discovering that Garcia overvalued the contents of her home on a renter's insurance claim. Garcia was then charged with aggravated murder, manslaughter and insurance fraud.

Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Mary McGrath filed a motion last week seeking to have Feigenbaum's request tossed out.

"She has simply submitted an expert's opinion that the fire she was convicted of setting, by which she killed her daughters, should have been classified as 'undetermined' in its origin and cause," McGrath wrote. "An expert opinion repeating the same information the jury already heard and rejected is not newly discovered evidence."

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