By Kendall McGee | March 16, 2021 at 7:12 PM EDT – Updated March 16 at 7:59 PM
WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – Opening arguments began Tuesday in the trial for a man accused of setting a fire that killed a young girl and her great aunt just before Christmas in 2014.
Harry Davis is facing one count of first-degree arson, two counts of first-degree murder, and three counts of attempted first-degree murder. He is accused of dousing the house on Lingo Street in gasoline and lighting it on fire in the early morning hours, while five people slept inside.
In the defense’s opening argument Tuesday morning, James Payne maintains Davis’ innocence and says that there’s not enough evidence to tie his client to the fire.
Much of the first day’s testimony focused on the night of the fire and what family and first responders experienced while the tragedy unfolded.
Fourteen -year-old Makayla Pickett, who was blind and autistic, was never able to escape the house. Firefighters later found her on the living room floor.
Her great aunt, 51-year-old Pamela Pickett got out of the home, but lost consciousness shortly after making it to the grass. First responders administered CPR, but she died just outside the home.
The state called four witnesses up first, who are members of the Pickett family. Two of those witnesses who testified today were actually survivors of the fire and told jurors how they woke up in the middle of the night to knocking, and how they remember seeing the flames from the fire and escaping through the bedroom window.
From there, first responders helped them to the curb where they watched the home burn and police officers pull family members from windows.
They say the family was very close and they all bonded over a love of music. Pamela was a songwriter, and Makayla loved listening to music and often played on the family’s drum set.
“It was devastating to know our loved ones passed away,” Tina Pickett testified to jurors. “Experiencing the loss and knowing your loved ones are no longer here.”
Pamela Pickett died in the fire, but jurors heard her voice in court Tuesday calling 911 for help.
A New Hanover County 911 supervisor shared records from the night the house burned down and played a recording of the 911 call made by the victim while she was still trapped inside the house.
Pamela was begging first responders to save her sister who is in a wheelchair and her blind niece, Makayla.
Family members say Pamela was the one who took care of her niece after Makayla’s mother died. Pamela’s sister, Beverly, survived the ordeal, but was hospitalized for weeks following the fire.
In the 911 call jurors heard Pamela frantically trying to repeat her address to the 911 operator yelling, “We need help!” and “Please hurry.”
The entire courtroom was silent as they listened to Pamela’s screams before the line goes dead.
After lunch, officers who responded to the scene took the stand and told their stories about the night of the fire. Both Wilmington Police Department officers arrived moments after they received the call and say smoke was coming from every crack in the house.
”The fire was very loud, cracking and popping,” said WPD officer Scott Solano. “I heard screams.”
The two officers who arrived on scene first knew the family. They both knew about Makayla’s disabilities and that others in the house also had medical needs.
Leaders say the trial is expected to last another two weeks.
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