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 fire.

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.

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