On Tuesday, a judge declared mistrial in the murder retrial of a woman accused of killing six of her children in a 1992 house fire.
In 1993, Tonya Lucus was convicted of six counts of first-degree felony murder. Lucas was sentenced to six life terms for killing her six children.
After deliberations came to an end, 54-year-old Lucas was acquitted of all charges. The state’s attorney’s office would not comment on whether the case should be retried.
The prosecutors aimed to prove Lucas’s guilt, alleging she set fire to her home at East Eager Street to get rental assistance from the Red Cross. They also claimed that the fire was an attempt to cover up her abuse of her son, Gregory Cook. The 2-year-old weighed 10 pounds at the time of his death, according to prosecutors.
In closing arguments, Lucas’s attorney, Michele Nethercott, said she was receiving government assistance and did not require Red Cross assistance. She also discredited graphic images of Gregory’s body, saying Lucas was not on trial for child abuse.
In 2015, the University of Baltimore’s Innocence Project got involved with the case. The credibility of the fire investigation was questioned, leading to Lucas’ conviction being overturned in December the same year.
Dozens of arson convictions based on bad science have been overturned across the country.
“The state’s own arson expert concluded that the cause of this fire should have been declared undermined,” Nethercott said.
After a stage four breast cancer diagnosis, Lucas was released on home detention and GPS monitoring. She is currently undergoing chemotherapy, which caused her to miss part of the trial proceedings.