PEORIA – The first day of the murder-arson trial against Aunterrio Barney is in the books, but witness testimony has just begun.
Barney faces charges of first-degree murder and aggravated arson. Police say he set Youlandice Simmons’, his ex-girlfriend, home on fire in 2010.
Simmons’ son, two year old Darryl Miller, her younger sister Brianna Simmons, and Darresse Roddy also died as a result of the fire.
Investigators said Brianna Simmons, 22, was pregnant at the time.
On Wednesday, Edward Casto fielded questions from the witness stand. He was a gas station clerk back in April 2010.
Casto said Barney visited the station he worked at in the early hours of April 21, 2010.
He said Barney put gasoline into a red gas can.
“He came into the store that night…that morning and bought a small purchase of gas and a bottle of soda,” Casto recounted to the jury.
He says he thought nothing of the purchase until he saw a picture of Barney on the back of a local newspaper.
That’s when he called police.
“I told him that I recognized the person in the paper um that had, that had committed a crime.”
The prosecution had Casto look through all of the receipts from his shift that night.
He highlighted a receipt from 4:04a.m. the morning of April 21, 2010. It was for one dollar of gas and a Tropicana lemonade.
Casto said that receipt belongs to Barney.
Detectives said they stumbled across a red gas can in a dumpster near the site of the apartment fire while investigating the area.
Detective Matt Ray of the Peoria Police Department said it was about three houses down from 1212 N. University Street. That’s where the deadly fire occurred.
Police sent the can to the state crime lab, but no DNA was found.
The defense didn’t focus on the gas can. Instead, attorney Hugh Toner spotlighted holes in Casto’s testimony.
He reminded the gas station clerk of something he said after identifying Barney as a potential suspect during a videotaped police interview.
That interview was six days after the deadly fire.
Toner asked Casto if he remembered saying, "That was the person I saw …or at least he looked a good deal like him."
Toner maintains he client is innocent. In his opening statement he said he’ll prove to the jury that some of the alleged events did happen, but that there is someone else responsible.
For live updates from the trial follow WMBD’s Marvis Herring on Twitter.
Aunterrio Barney is accused of the arson deaths of 24 year-old Youlandice Simmons, her two year-old son Darryl Miller Jr., 22 year-old Brianna Simmons and 19 year-old Darresse Roddy. All four died as the result of an apartment fire on the 1200 block of N. University Street back on April 21st, 2010.
According to authorities, Brianna Simmons was also pregnant at the time of her death. Barney was arrested by U.S. Marshall's in Raleigh, North Carolina the following month. Police say he was the former boyfriend of Youlandice.
Barney faces first degree murder and aggravated arson charges. The trial is expected to finish either on Friday or the beginning of next week.
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