|By Dianne Weaver|
A combined trial for a Weston couple and their house mate is underway
in Federal Court in Wheeling this week.
Rickey Lee and Barbara Brown and Janette Ables are accused of
deliberately setting fire to their home at 421 Main Avenue, Weston, on
November 21, 1997, prosecutors allege with the intention to collect
nearly $91,000 in home and life insurance money.
Tragically killed in the early morning blaze were, Ables' two
children, Rayshell Ables age 5 and Jimmy Ables age 3. Barbara Browns'
three children from a former marriage, Seronica Castner age 10.
Kimberly Castner age 9 and Brandon Castner age 8, also died in the
The three defendants, who have been incarcerated since November, 1997
and two other adults in the house escaped uninjured. The prosecution
alleges, gasoline was used to set the fire.
The prosecution also alleges that in October, 1997, life insurance
policies were taken out on the three Castner children. In early
November, 1997 a homeowners policy was paid up for six months. The
policy had previously lapsed for non-payment.
A jury has been selected and opening statements were to begin on
Tuesday. The trial is expected to last for several weeks.
The death penalty had previously been a part of the original 15 count
indictment against the three, but has been dismissed. United States
District Judge, Irene Keely dismissed the death penalty charge. The
dismissal came as a result of a recent United States Supreme Court
ruling that narrowed the scope of the federal arson law.