The man accused of starting a deadly 2010 house fire in Peoria has been found guilty, much to the relief of the victims' friends and family.
A group gathered in the hallway outside the courtroom after the jury came back with the verdict for Aunterrio Barney early Monday evening. They hugged, cried, and prayed together, offering thanks to God for ensuring justice was carried out after four long years.
Barney was accused of dousing stairs leading up to an apartment above 1212 N. University in gasoline, then setting fire to them, during the early morning hours of April 21, 2010. Prosecutors said he lit the blaze to settle a score with Youlandice Simmons, with whom he'd argued the night before. Simmons, her sister, Briana Simmons, and Darrese Roddy all died that morning. Youlandice Simmons’ two-year-old son, Darryl Miller Jr., passed away the next day at a Springfield hospital.
"I'm not gonna lie, we're very happy. He got what he deserved," said Tayo Faulkner, the sister of Youlandice and Briana Simmons. "But we can't get none of those people back. So it still hurts."
Under state law, Barney will be given an automatic life sentence for the crime. For some relatives, the sentence doesn't go far enough.
"He's a murderer. I wish he could've gotten the death penalty," said Helen Johnson, grandmother of Darrese Roddy.
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.
Barney's trial lasted four days. He'll have a procedural sentencing hearing in four weeks.