A landlord was convicted of murder Monday for a 2010 arson fire in Cicero that authorities claimed was set for insurance money. Seven people, including two young children, died in the blaze.
Lawrence J. Myers, 64, was found guilty of seven counts of first-degree murder in a trial before Judge Carol Kipperman at the Maywood courthouse, court records show.
A jury deliberated for an hour and a half before announcing the guilty verdicts, the Cook County state’s attorney’s office said.
Prosecutors said Myers planned the fire in an attempt to collect on a $250,000 insurance policy that he held on the building in the 3000 block of South 48th Court in Cicero.
Myers owned a struggling building in Wisconsin and conspired with building manager Marion “Andre” Comier to set the fire at Myers’ Cicero property to help his financial situation, prosecutors said at their bond hearings in March 2010.
The Wisconsin property had been vacant and on the market for several months, and Myers was not able to make the mortgage payments.
Comier mixed gasoline and oil to hide the smell and allegedly set the blaze at the four-unit apartment building about 6:30 a.m. on Valentine’s Day 2010, authorities said.
The early morning fire killed seven of the 12 people asleep in the apartment: Sallie Gist, 18; Gist’s two children, Rayshawn Reed, 3, and newborn Byron Reed; her twin siblings, Elisha and Elijah Gist, 16; her boyfriend, Byron Reed, 20; and family friend Tiera Davidson, 19.
Flames shot though the structure, blocking the only exit from the attic where all seven victims had been sleeping, prosecutorssaid.
Witnesses ultimately came forward after hearing the defendants talking about the plot. An informant wearing a wire caught Myers discussing Comier after the blaze, saying the fire was supposed to have been set while the children were at school.
At the bond hearing, prosecutors read from a transcript of the conversation: “I told him to do it in the afternoon before the kids came home from school. I told him I’d give him $3,000. . . . I told him not to hurt anybody.”
Myers, of the 3200 block of South 50th Avenue in Cicero, will next appear in court Dec. 16, court records show. He has been held without bond at the Cook County Jail since his arrest and faces a mandatory life sentence, authorities said.
Comier, 51, of the 5300 block of West 30th Place in Cicero, also is being held without bond and is awaiting trial on murder and aggravated arson charges. He will next appear in court Thursday for a status hearing, court records show.
Town of Cicero “President Dominick wanted to thank the jury for convicting Myers in the first of two cases involving the most heinous arson fires we’ve seen in many years,” town spokesman Ray Hanania said in a prepared statement.
“This case would never have been solved but for the fast action of the Cicero Fire Department in responding to the fire, and also to the hard work of the team of detectives of the Cicero Police Department who obtained undercover audio tapes that were instrumental in the conviction,” Hanania said.