Defense says Port Norfolk arson killing not gang-related

An attorney defending a Dorchester man charged with murder and setting fire to a Port Norfolk Street home in 2001 lit into a top witness for the prosecution this week, accusing her of setting up the fire and lying to a grand jury investigating the case.

In a heated exchange on Tuesday, Robert Galibois, a Barnstable lawyer defending Eric King, on trial for the arson and murder, attempted to rip apart the testimony of Tamia Brown, who has pleaded guilty as an accessory before the fact to the murder of 53-year-old Shelby Caddell by directing King and others to the home.

Caddell, who was just staying over for the night, was found dead by firefighters from smoke inhalation on the second floor, underneath his mattress and covered with soot after the August 2001 fire that hit the Port Norfolk three-decker.

"You set this whole thing up and now you're getting probation," Galibois said in cross-examining Brown, who took the stand before a 15-member jury at Suffolk Superior Court in the second day of the trial.

"Nobody said I was getting anything," Brown replied. Probation was being discussed but she had not been sentenced yet, she told prosecutors.

Prosecutors allege the fire was the result of a failed attempt to kill Kyron Childers, a rival gang member from the Franklin Hill area. The same rival gang had allegedly shot one of King's friends outside a Mattapan nightclub hours earlier, Assistant District Attorney Dennis Collins said.

Brown, 24, had previously dated Childers and knew where he lived. "He just said he was going to handle the situation," Brown said of the 35-year-old King, whom prosecutors allege was part of the Esmond Street area gang.

Brown, King and others then drove down to the Port Norfolk address, picking up a few items. Prosecutors allege that King and another man purchased a gas container and filled it with gasoline at a gas station and then headed to the two-family home, where King doused the front porch with the accelerant and lit it on fire.

But Galibois, King's attorney, intimated that the fire didn't have anything to do with rival gangs and was the result of a love triangle between Childers, Brown and the man who got shot outside the Mattapan club earlier. Galibois pointed to differing accounts that Brown gave to police during the investigation.

Galibois also charged that Brown said she did not care about what happened to Childers inside the flaming house, a charge Brown denied.

"You lied to the police, you lied to the grand jury," Galibois said, causing Judge Patrick Brady to interject and caution against arguing with Brown.

"Unfortunately, it takes two, judge," Galibois shot back.

Brown denied the hit was fueled by a romance and explained her different accounts to police: "I was scared, I was underage."

In his opening statement, Galibois, said grand juries have a "considerably lower" burden of proof and urged jurors to pay close attention to the testimony.

"It's expected that you're going to hear many, many, many different versions of what happened that night," he said.

A spokesman for Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley's office said they have no plans to pursue perjury charges against Brown.

"We're confident that the jury will see through the defense counsel's efforts," said spokesman Jake Wark.

Two other individuals, including Brendan Morris, King's co-defendant, and Covia Godfrey, have pleaded guilty to charges after grand jury indictments were handed down in 2002.