15 Sep 2014
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Patch Instagram photo by cabanasalon
Patch Instagram photo by cabanasalon

UPDATE: Guilty Verdict in Jill Smith Arson-Murder Trial

Peter Delaney who was also charged with felony-murder and first-degree arson was found not guilty on all charges.

UPDATE: Guilty Verdict in Jill Smith Arson-Murder Trial

Update: 2-28-12, 3:45 p.m. (details of verdict and sentencing)

A Forsyth County jury has found 35-year old Jill Smith guilty of in a fire that started in the master bedroom of the couple's home located in a south Forsyth County subdivision in 2010. The medical examiner confirmed Mr. Smith’s death was due to a combination of smoke inhalation and thermal burns.

After a day and a half of jury deliberations a verdict was reached and read by the jury foreman Tuesday morning (see video above) in the packed courtroom of Forsyth County Superior Court Judge David L. Dickinson.

Trial testimony centered on Forsyth County fire investigators, firefighters, and witnesses. The state argued that the fire was intentionally set, while defense attorneys for Smith and Delaney argued that there was not enough evidence to support that claim.

In the end the jury found Smith guilty of single counts of murder, felony-murder and first-degree arson.

Kyle Epps, one of Smith’s attorneys, said he was very surprised by the outcome and that it will take awhile to process "a stunning verdict."

He also said they have 30 days to decide on whether they will ask for a motion of a new trial. "So that's something we'll be taking a look at in the next couple of weeks."

In the meantime she will remain in the Forsyth County Detention Center and eventually be transferred to Jackson State Prison in Jackson, Ga., according to Epps.

Peter Delaney, who was also charged with felony-murder and first-degree arson was found not guilty on all counts.

Delaney's attorney, Rafe Banks, said that he proved that the state had no case against his client and that he was pleased with the outcome. But he added, "Mr. Delaney will try to rebuild his life which has been destroyed by spending 14 months in jail...he never should have spent 14 months in jail."

Delaney's mother, Barbara Moran said, "This has been an agonizing, heart-breaking, unbelievable nightmare since it all first started for everyone."

But she said the outcome was what they have been praying for and knew had to happen.

"Because everyone who knew Pete knew he could not have ever had a part in anything like this," she said.

Prior to Smith's sentencing the court heard from Michael Smith's mother, Heather Cramer; his sister, Claire Little; and from Debbie Seem who spoke on behalf of Michael's father, her "life partner" Phil Smith. Each person shared a little bit about Michael's life and losing him in the tragic fire.

But it was Cramer's words that were most riveting as she spoke about her son and what Smith did to him.

"All Michael ever wanted was to love Jill and Maize [Smith's young son] and have that love returned. He offered Jill and Maize a home and security. But most of all an example of what it means to live in this world as a good, honest and generous human being – sadly that was not returned. Tragically Jill took advantage of his trust and his goodness, and she murdered him."

Just before Judge Dickinson read Smith's sentence he asked her if she had anything to say, but she declined. He then sentenced her to life plus 20 years. Smith, who was visibly upset and shaken, was escorted out of the courtroom in handcuffs.

Following the sentencing, Cumming Patch caught up with Michael Smith's mother who shared this about her son.

"He was an exceptionally good, kind and generous man from birth to a much too early death," Cramer said. "He had a heart that was way too big."

Today, Feb. 28, would have been Michael Smith's 39th birthday.

, ended on Friday, Feb. 24.

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