Mother being re-tried for allegedly setting fire that killed 6 of her kids

Posted at 5:42 PM, Jun 26, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-26 17:43:31-04

Tonya Lucas was sentenced to life in prison, six times over, for a fire which killed six of her children in 1992. After more than two decades behind bars, Lucas was in court Monday.

She's being retried after a first-degree felony murder conviction was overturned in 2015. The conviction was overturned because of unreliable techniques used by fire investigators. 

At the courthouse Monday, one of her former jailmates come to support her.

"I met Tonya whenever she went to jail 25 years ago. I was incarcerated myself and we became friends. I learned to have a respect for her," Etta Myers said.

Prosecutors say one witness claimed he had been to the house the day of the fire trading drug money for sex and he watched Lucas pour what appeared to be charcoal lighter fuel throughout the room and set it on fire. The witness claims she then went upstairs and jumped out of the second floor window to cover her crime.

Lucas' attorney says that witness told police several different stories, including one where he served as a lookout for the person who really set the fire, which would have made him an accomplice. 

Whatever the case, Lucas' supporters question why the state is trying to convict a woman 25 years after the tragedy; a woman who's been diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer and has limited time to life. 

"She doesn't have that much more time to live and to put a double whammy on her, this is like putting the nail in the cross," Myers said. "I think that it's important that people recognize that  even if a crime was committed by her back then, that she's done a lot of time and she's had time to be remorseful. I think that if that's the case, she has cried enough tears."

The state has offered a few possible motives in the case. One scenario suggests Lucas set the fire because the family was going to be evicted from the home that same day and she was hoping that the Red Cross might step in and offer another place to live because of the fire. Another theory is that Lucas was attempting to cover child abuse or neglect that could have been going on in the home. Investigators found a 2-year-old son of hers only weighed 10 pounds at the time of his death.