PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Chilling surveillance pictures from a Homewood gas station show a man accused of setting a fatal house that killed three people back in December knew exactly what he was doing.
So say prosecutors, who presented evidence Friday in a preliminary hearing for 41-year old Martell Smith.
After it was over, a judge ordered Smith to stand trial on charges of arson and homicide in the deaths of 58-year-old Sandra Carter Douglas, 21-year-old Shamira Staten — the girlfriend of Douglas’ son, and Staten’s 4-year old daughter, Chy’enne Manning.
Investigators already said that they believe Smith was out for revenge after getting into a fight with Carter Douglas’s son at a Penn Hills bar the night of the fire. The son also lived at the house, but wasn’t home at the time.
In court, prosecutors showed surveillance pictures from a Sunoco gas station on Penn Avenue, where they say, Smith went immediately after the bar fight.
The pictures show a man identified as Smith heading straight for a display of gas cans inside the convenience store. He grabs one, pays for it and leaves the store all in the space of less than a minute and a half, according to the time stamps on the pictures. The last surveillance picture shows Smith in the parking lot, headed for the gas pumps.
Twenty minutes later, a police officer on patrol noticed the nearby house on Bennett Street on fire. He immediately alerted firefighters, but by the time they got to the scene the house was so fully involved they couldn’t rescue the victims.
The only survivor, Sandra Carter-Douglas’s husband, 58-year old Cecil Douglas, made it out by jumping off the roof of the house. Still on crutches, he told reporters outside court he’s doing OK, but is now focused on getting justice for his family.
“No doubt, yeah, for Shamira, for that baby, for my wife,” Douglas told reporters.
Meanwhile, the woman who was with Smith the night of the fire was ordered to stand trial on Wednesday on charges of resisting arrest and simple assault. Tiasia Malloy isn’t charged in the fire, but police arrested her after they found her in a car with Smith a couple of blocks away, smelling like gasoline. Police say Malloy fought with them and threw a chair at an officer while he questioned her at the police station.