Jury: Fore guilty of arson
Published 8:27 pm Friday, June 17, 2011
Toshanna “Nikki” Fore bowed her head and showed no reaction Friday night as a jury pronounced her guilty of arson and criminal mischief.
The Escambia County jury found Fore not guilty of attempted murder in the case of an April 2010 fire that burned a Spruce Avenue home as four people were inside. One of the occupants was severely burned.
Fore now faces life in prison on the arson case and up to 20 years on the criminal mischief charge.
Circuit Judge Bert Rice told Fore and her attorneys that a pre-sentencing report would be orderd and sentencing was expected to be handed down in August.
District Attorney Steve Billy said he was satisfied with the decision of the jury.
“Law enforcement did a good job in this case,” he said. “I think the Brewton Police Department and the Brewton Fire Department really did their job in their investigations.”
Following the announcement of the verdict in the case, Defense Attorney Kevin McKinley asked that the jury be polled on their decision.
Rice polled each jury individually on each of the three charges. The jury ws unanimous in their decision on each of the three charges.
“I did my best for my client,” McKinley said.
Fore made no response as the verdicts on each charge was read, standing before the judge and jury with her head bowed.
The trial that began Tuesday heard testimony from as many as 30 witnesses over the course of the four days.
Rice offered thanks to the jury members for their patience and for being deligient in their deliberation.
During closing arguments Friday, Assistant District Attorney Todd Stearns asked the jury to consider the actions of Fore and deliberate accordingly.
“Proverbs 19:5 says a false witness will not go unpunished,” Stearns told the jury. “And he, who speaks likes will not escape.”
Stearns said Fore had liked about her actions on the morning of April 26, 2010 when the fire at 113 Spruce St., destroyed a home, a car and put the lives of four victims in danger.
“She had motive, took the opportunity an liked about it,” Stearns said. “Don’t let that false witness escape justice.”
McKinley said the jury should consider the truth in the case and that the case was like a puzzle with a missing piece.
Witnesses had said the vehicle burned in the incident that lead to the charges against Fore, was sold for scrap without benefit of being secured for investigation purposes.
“For $150, the truth was sold,” McKinley said. “Every bit of truth went with that car to the salvage yard.”
Fore has been incarcerated since her arrest last year following an initial investigation into the case, McKinley said.
“Ms. Fore has waited for her story to be heard for 14 months,” McKinley said. “You kind folks are the first ones to hear are the first ones to hear her story.”
McKinley said the prosecution’s case was centered around circumstantial evidence.
“The evidence in this case is circumstantial at best,” McKinley said. “That circumstantial evidence is asking you to throw that lady’s life away.”
Billy told the jury that Fore should be convicted for the crimes with which she has been charged.
“This was no accidental fire,” Billy told the jury. “What is the probability of (Fore) being there at the exact moment of this fire? Either she’s guilty or the most unlucky person walking on this earth.”
Billy said Fore was responsible for the fire and should be found guilty for the crimes.
“She went to that house just as sure and started that fire,” Billy said. “I ask you to hold her accountable of her actions and find her guilty.”
Billy said Fore’s actions has changed the lives of the people who resided at the Spruce Avenue home.
“She almost took four people’s lives,” Billy said. “She did take all of their belongings. Those lives were disrupted because of this selfish woman.
“What we have is a person who loves herself more than anything on this earth and will do anything she can to get what she wants. One thing that has been the underlying current that set thsi whole thing in motion was jealousy, self-love and deceit.”
After the verdict, Fore was taken into custody and returned to the Escambia County Detention Center under no bond to await sentencing.