BUTLER COUNTY, OH (FOX19) - Men accused of setting the December 2015 house fire that claimed the life of a Hamilton firefighter took the witness stand this week.
Prosecutors said Lester Parker, 66, asked his nephew William "Billy" Tucker to come up from Richmond, Ky. and set fire to his house on Pater Avenue. They said Parker took family photos out of the house before leaving for Las Vegas and purchased a disposable "temporary" phone to make calls while in Nevada.
Parker admitted in court that he was behind on the mortgage on the Pater Avenue home.
"Did you burn your house down?" Parker's defense attorney, David Washington, asked Monday.
"No," replied Parker.
"Did you hire somebody to burn your house down?" asked Washington.
"Absolutely not," replied Parker.
"Do you know how your house caught on fire?" asked Washington.
"They never told me," Parker said.
Parker and his wife were in Las Vegas when the house caught fire. A burglar alarm led police to the location. Firefighter Patrick Wolterman, 28, fell through the first floor into the basement and lost his life while battling the blaze. His death was ruled a homicide by the Butler County Coroner's Office.
Prosecutors said Parker has $288,000 worth of fire insurance on the property, and claim Parker told his insurance company to stop paying him once the claim was settled.
Parker accused the prosecutor of telling witnesses to lie on the stand.
The trial is expected to resume Tuesday. Tucker and Parker face murder and arson charges. They could spend up to 15 years to life in prison if convicted.