Thursday, June 17, 2004

Mother convicted of killing 2-year-old in fire

The Associated Press

DAYTON, Ohio - A woman convicted of starting a fire that killed her 2-year-old daughter could be sentenced to life in prison.

A jury Tuesday convicted Julie Ann Abner of aggravated murder in the Aug. 28, 2002, arson that killed her daughter, Ashley, in their Miamisburg apartment.

Abner, 25, wept with her head bowed as the verdict was read. Judge Barbara Gorman of Montgomery County Common Pleas Court set sentencing for June 30.

Abner also was convicted of attempted aggravated murder of her 5-year-old son and nine counts of aggravated arson. The counts referred to her two children, the building and six individuals, including firefighters and a police officer who attempted to rescue the girl trapped in the apartment.

Abner also was convicted on single, alternate counts of aggravated murder and attempted aggravated murder.

Defense attorney Terry Hart said the verdict will be appealed.

The defense sought unsuccessfully to introduce psychological testimony and other evidence to show Abner gave a false confession to police.

Prosecutors told the jury that Abner was frustrated by her living situation with two young children so she decided to kill them and herself. The prosecutors contended that evidence in addition to Abner's taped admissions showed that she took a can of gasoline and poured it in the apartment's living room and then ignited it.

The boy ran out of the apartment and Abner chased him, leaving her daughter behind, prosecutors said.

Abner first told police that her son set the fire in a mattress while she was in the bathroom.

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