A Chicago man has been found guilty of murder and arson for starting a fatal fire in Peoria four years ago.
Aunterrio Barney was accused of igniting a house at 1212 North University on April 21, 2010. Four people, including a two-year-old child, who were trapped inside an upstairs apartment died. Barney went on the run, but was arrested in North Carolina the following June.
Prosecutors argued Barney was mad at Youlandice Simmons, one of the victims, the night before the early morning fire for being late to meet him and not returning his phone calls. The state played a series of increasingly agitated, and expletive-laden, voicemails Barney left for her that night, the last one ending with him saying, “I’m gonna get you for this.”
The state argued that, after the last voicemail, Barney biked over to a nearby gas station, bought a dollar’s worth of gas, and took it back to Simmons’ home. He then doused the stairs, lit them, and walked away, prosecutors alleged. Simmons, her sister, Briana Simmons, and Darrese Roddy all died in the fire. Simmons’ two-year-old son, Darryl Miller Jr., passed away the next day at a Springfield hospital.
Defense attorney Hugh Toner, meanwhile, countered that the state didn’t have any hard evidence to prove any of the allegations. Toner suggested that perhaps Gene Braggs, the only one to escape the fire, was the one who actually sparked the blaze.
The jury came back with the verdict on Monday following four days of testimony. Because of the nature of the crime, Barney is automatically sentenced to life in prison.