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UPDATE: Guilty Verdict in Jill Smith Arson-Murder Trial

Peter Delaney who was also charged with felony-murder and first-degree arson was found not guilty on all charges.

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on 2-28-12 on Cumming Patch.

Update: 2-28-12, 3:45 p.m. (details of verdict and sentencing)

A Forsyth County jury has found 35-year old Jill Smith guilty of in a fire that started in the master bedroom of the couple's home located in a south Forsyth County subdivision in 2010. The medical examiner confirmed Mr. Smith’s death was due to a combination of smoke inhalation and thermal burns.

After a day and a half of jury deliberations a verdict was reached and read by the jury foreman Tuesday morning (see video above) in the packed courtroom of Forsyth County Superior Court Judge David L. Dickinson.

Trial testimony centered on Forsyth County fire investigators, firefighters, and witnesses. The state argued that the fire was intentionally set, while defense attorneys for Smith and Delaney argued that there was not enough evidence to support that claim.

In the end the jury found Smith guilty of single counts of murder, felony-murder and first-degree arson.

Kyle Epps, one of Smith’s attorneys, said he was very surprised by the outcome and that it will take awhile to process "a stunning verdict."

He also said they have 30 days to decide on whether they will ask for a motion of a new trial. "So that's something we'll be taking a look at in the next couple of weeks."

In the meantime she will remain in the Forsyth County Detention Center and eventually be transferred to Jackson State Prison in Jackson, Ga., according to Epps.

Peter Delaney, who was also charged with felony-murder and first-degree arson was found not guilty on all counts.

Delaney's attorney, Rafe Banks, said that he proved that the state had no case against his client and that he was pleased with the outcome. But he added, "Mr. Delaney will try to rebuild his life which has been destroyed by spending 14 months in jail...he never should have spent 14 months in jail."

Delaney's mother, Barbara Moran said, "This has been an agonizing, heart-breaking, unbelievable nightmare since it all first started for everyone."

But she said the outcome was what they have been praying for and knew had to happen.

"Because everyone who knew Pete knew he could not have ever had a part in anything like this," she said.

Prior to Smith's sentencing the court heard from Michael Smith's mother, Heather Cramer; his sister, Claire Little; and from Debbie Seem who spoke on behalf of Michael's father, her "life partner" Phil Smith. Each person shared a little bit about Michael's life and losing him in the tragic fire.

But it was Cramer's words that were most riveting as she spoke about her son and what Smith did to him.

"All Michael ever wanted was to love Jill and Maize [Smith's young son] and have that love returned. He offered Jill and Maize a home and security. But most of all an example of what it means to live in this world as a good, honest and generous human being – sadly that was not returned. Tragically Jill took advantage of his trust and his goodness, and she murdered him."

Just before Judge Dickinson read Smith's sentence he asked her if she had anything to say, but she declined. He then sentenced her to life plus 20 years. Smith, who was visibly upset and shaken, was escorted out of the courtroom in handcuffs.

Following the sentencing, Cumming Patch caught up with Michael Smith's mother who shared this about her son.

"He was an exceptionally good, kind and generous man from birth to a much too early death," Cramer said. "He had a heart that was way too big."

Today, Feb. 28, would have been Michael Smith's 39th birthday.

, ended on Friday, Feb. 24.


Peggy Samuels February 28, 2012 at 05:40 PM
I knew Mike growing up in Marietta. He and my son Jon were best friends. His parents gave him the most magical childhood. it seems right that this verdict was on Mikes Birthday. I wish his family peace, the world lost an incredible young man. Peggy Samuels
Random February 28, 2012 at 07:07 PM
Forsyth County had no business denying Peter Delaney bond given the incredibly weak evidence against him. Props to the jury for sorting through the evidence and not sending an innocent man to jail for the rest of his life. At the same time, an innocent man has now lost his job, 1.5 years of his life, and his reputation. I am embarrassed for Forsyth County District Attorney Penny Penn. In order for Peter Delaney to have been a pilot all these years (prior to the case), he must have had an impeccable record. With that in mind, it is alarming that Penny Penn was able to keep Mr. Delaney locked up WITHOUT BOND for all this time. Now that all the evidence has been put on the table, why was bond denied? Is Forsyth now a "guilty until proven innocent" county?
Karma February 28, 2012 at 07:41 PM
Peter should have thought about his integrity and his impeccable aviation record when he got involved with a married woman and made a choice to be in the house the night his girlfriend murdered her husband. And then (as witnesses testified) began to tell one hell of a story to the neighbors about who he was and what happened that night. His lawyers have proven him innocent.....now let's see what God's judgement will be when his day comes.
Hope February 28, 2012 at 07:53 PM
I couldn't agree more with Karma. God will ultimately judge him in the end. Let's hope he can get his life turned around and do good for the community and the people around him. Hopefully he has learned a tough lesson in life.
Hi February 28, 2012 at 08:22 PM
I'm just curious...........Who makes the final decision on bond issues?
Random February 28, 2012 at 08:26 PM
This is a neighbor speaking. Peter kept his story straight since day 1 (or before day 1 even occured for that matter). As for Jill... she had drama in her life LONG before October 2010. Peter is no saint, but he DID NOT commit the crime. I'm not somebody who usually gets passionate about cases, but the "evidence" against Peter just wasn't there. Either way, why was he jailed for a year and a half? How much did that cost the tax payers? Is this why we needed more money for a new jail? If you truly hope he does good for the community, you can hire him. Have you ever tried getting a job with an acquittal of murder on your record? I only say this because there is no doubt in my mind that this man is innocent. Did you know Jill had a baby from another father during her time in jail? Was this man ever interviewed?
Hi February 28, 2012 at 08:42 PM
Yes. We know plenty.
CMB February 28, 2012 at 09:09 PM
I will tell you this. I was one of the first neighbors to arrive right when the fire trucks showed up that Friday night. Jil was setting on the curb across the street having a smoke while little Mayes was huddled up against the neighbor across the streets garage door. What kind of mother would do that? Pete was drunk as a skunk. At one point he was in jill's face saying nasty things about Mike. The DA had it right asking for bond to be held. The jury got it half right. He needs to be in jail. I can tell you my feeling that night has not changed, both are guilty. For his lawyer to try and point the finger at Mayes, it makes me sick, what a scum bag he must be to go that low to save his client.
Random February 28, 2012 at 09:45 PM
Drunk as a skunk = murder?
Friend of Mike February 28, 2012 at 10:28 PM
MIke was someone's son, someone's brother. I am so sorry that poor Pete had to spend a year and a half in jail for something he was aquitted of (doesn't mean I think he is innocent) but at least he can get out and live his life. Mike can't. Pete made some poor decisions and was involved with some pretty bad company. If he hadn't been involved with a married woman, at the scene of a crime, drunk when it happened, none of this would have happened to him now would it.
Roodmama February 28, 2012 at 10:44 PM
Let's remember an amazing man was murdered, and he will not be here to make us laugh or give a bear hug. Mike will never be forgotten; he will live in his family's and friend's hearts forever. She will rot in jail, and the other guy will have the luxury of starting his life over. Mike wasn't that lucky. He trusted the wrong person and suffered the ultimate sacrifice -his life. The other guy trusted the wrong person and suffered a blow to his reputation. Big deal. Let's have some better perspective here. Mike's mom, sister and dad need support here not ongoing discussion about anything. Today is Mike's 39 birthday. Respect him and his family.
Random February 28, 2012 at 11:02 PM
It sounds like Mike was a really nice guy and it is a terrible thing what happened to him. Respectfully, the issue of concern is civil liberties, due process, evidence, and the idea that people are "guilty until proven innocent." On what grounds was Pete locked up for a year without the option for bail? Where is the evidence that he was a threat to society? Jill knew exactly what she was doing. Did you know that Peter was set up to meet Jill by a close friend/relative of hers (don't want to mention names)? Peter was told that he was meeting a single woman. It was only after the second meeting that he realized Jill was actually the interested party. Was Mike aware of Jill's affairs? Does anybody know the answer to this with certainty? Jill also tried to break into Pete's house one night before this happened and Pete ended up calling the cops on her. This all happened before the incident in October 2010. Mike's death was a horrible crime, but with all the information now out in the open, was it right to deny bail? 2 "wrongs" are still 2 "wrongs."
JR February 28, 2012 at 11:20 PM
If I were a DA in a murder trail, I would fight to keep ANY pilot in jail until trial. It would be just too easy for him to leave the country. Once in the air, he could be gone forever.
Random February 28, 2012 at 11:28 PM
A commercial plane with passengers... yeh that would be easy to hide.
Hmmmmmmm February 28, 2012 at 11:32 PM
Random if he is a pilot he could just as easily rented a plane, flown under the radar and out of the country. Not hard to do. Drug dealers do it every day. Also not feeling any sympathy for a guy who was having an affair with a married woman. You said he learned of it on the second date...well that should have been the last if he was any kind of real man. He was a flight risk....bail denied. You sound like perhaps you were sleeping with him....things that make you go hmmm.
Random February 28, 2012 at 11:38 PM
Lets start rumors and point fingers at people commenting on this blog. Cutting down the competition is always the best way to deal with people you don't agree with. Clearly this conversation has turned unproductive and in respect to Mike, Peter, and all other parties involved, it is probably best that it go no further.
EZDuzit February 29, 2012 at 12:03 AM
There are NO winners here people! What we have is a good man that is dead, 2 living people with very little hope for the future, an 11 year old boy that is an innocent victim, a baby who will never know his mother (or father for that matter), 3 families that have had to endure 16 months of pain, suffering and grief....and for what, Justice??? C'mon are you kidding me? Why is it that some folks that seem to be happy that 'justice' has been done have not even made the 1st inquiry as to where their son's remains are. Seems to me like the "money" was a motivating factor in more ways than one. In any event, it's just a sad situation all the way around, because NONE of us will ever know what really happened that night.
Roodmama February 29, 2012 at 12:47 AM
I know what really happened that night - a good man was murdered.
JR February 29, 2012 at 03:30 AM
Random, I'm sorry you are having to protect and defend a friend that was involved in a terrible event. Only he knows his true involvement. From the limited evidence presented, he appears to have been a pawn but he will get to move on. As a commercial pilot, he is a member of a very powerful union that will protect him now that he has been acquitted. He will be able to truthfully answer that he has never been convicted of these heinous crimes on amy application. He is the lucky one no matter how much, or little, time he spent in jail depending on your view of his involvement.
CMB February 29, 2012 at 04:22 AM
Hey Random, seems you want to protect Pete. I was there as the fire trucks were rolling up, were you? I saw her lack of concern, I saw and heard Pete making wild accusations about Mike, by all accounts a good man and a great step dad. Yes Pete was drunk, and by being drunk he was running his mouth really loud. The things he said leave no doubt in my mind he was actively involved in what went down that evening. All I am saying is to feel sorry that poor Pete had to set in jail... give me a break. Bottom line here the Smiths lost a son and a brother. Mayes lost a great step dad and a mother. Pete, he lost a few months, he ought to thank his lucky stars he got away with that. I still say his lawyer is dispicable for what he said about that poor young boy.
Walton Alumni 1991 February 29, 2012 at 05:57 AM
Mike Smith was a fine human being and will be missed by family and friends forever. I grew up with Mike and never remember anything but a smile on his face. Mike and I were never especially tight but he was someone that I respected and admired. He was the type of guy that brought joy to people. I knew Mike had passed away but I thought Mike died from MS and it is today on his birthday that I learn that he was murdered by his wife and her lover? Personally, I find joy in knowing that justice is being served on Mike's birthday. Rest in Peace Mike.
Friend too February 29, 2012 at 01:04 PM
"It's the final countdown" for Jill! Rest in peace Mike
Family February 29, 2012 at 07:42 PM
Family - I cannot believe that people are still after Peter after being found innocent. Those who sat in the courtroom through the whole trial know only part of the story. Not all evidence was allowed to be heard by the jury so unless you know the whole story you should not be passing judgement. Both Mike's family and Jill's told ours that they knew after the trial that Peter did not do this. Peter flew from October to December 22nd when he was arrested while working so for those of you who said he should not have bail as a flight risk you do not know what you are talking about. The families and only the families and Mr. Banks on Peter's side know the whole story. Again, there was much not told in the courtroom and unless you know the whole story you should not be passing judgement on anyone. In all fairness, not sure I can say Jill is guilty based on the information presented in court. I did not know her but again know not everything came out in court. Let's let Mike rest in peace and his family heal as ours needs to also.
Friend of Mike February 29, 2012 at 07:45 PM
Are you talking about Mike's family? If so you are absolutely incredible AND absolutely wrong. That would be incredibly insensitive to be talking like that. Not to mention absolutely wrong.
h March 03, 2012 at 06:00 PM
yes, peter made a bad choice by being with this woman but she obviously had mental issues. a life was lost and that was mikes. peter may have made some poor decision but that does not get to the root of the problem, which was jill. i am happy justice was served.
Clarence Beeks March 04, 2012 at 11:18 PM
I'm curious about the details that led to Pete being found not guilty on all charges. I had assumed since he was at the crime scene and how these things usually turn out that he would surely be found guilty. So, did Jill finally fess up that Pete had nothing to do with the crime?
WJB March 20, 2012 at 01:48 PM
It I's funny. Pete is guilty until proven innocent. Even now. I don't know what brought Pete to this point, but neither do these powple wanting "G-d's" justice. What ever happen to love and forgiveness? Pete I pray for you and hope the best for you. I know you will walk out of the darkness.

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