PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A woman who confessed to setting a fatal house fire because voices in her head told her demons were living there has pleaded guilty to murder charges.
The fire happened on North Lang Avenue in Homewood back in 2016. It killed 68-year-old Gerald Johnson, 73-year-old Derlyn Vance, who owned the house, and 56-year-old Calvin Turner.
In court Monday, 45-year-old LaToya Lyerly, who was a boarder at the North Lang Avenue home, pleaded guilty to three counts of third-degree murder for setting that fatal fire.
“Derlyn would bring in a lot of different people, and he just felt that he needed to help them,” Michelle Dixon-McIntosh, a victim’s daughter, said. “We were concerned for Derlyn’s safety.”
Lyerly told the court, “I apologize to the family. I know I can’t bring them back. I am sorry.”
“As a Christian, I have forgiven her for her acts,” Dixon-McIntosh said. “It’s hard to forget. It’s not going to bring the loved ones back.”
Her lawyer told the court Lyerly had been abused as a child and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, depression and was known to hear voices.
“We just want to make sure she gets the help that she needs, and we accept her apology,” Dixon-McIntosh said.
The prosecution told the court Lyerly had given several different stories to police at the time of her arrest. She told investigators the house was filled with demons and a voice in her head told her to kill everyone inside.
Before sentencing, the judge listened to victim impact letters from family members, who openly wept in the courtroom.
Turner’s daughter wrote, “In my eyes, he is the foundation of everything great about me.”
Vance’s daughter Lynda Johnson wrote, “A part of me was taken from me. My dad. This man was clearly my first love and my best friend.”
Lyerly will spend the next 18 to 36 years behind bars.