A home that was part of an investigation has been partially demolished after city officials granted a permit to a contractor, a report by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says. A Dec. 20 fire in the Pittsburgh home killed three and was considered suspicious.
City police charged Martell Smith with three counts of criminal homicide related charges. The city plans to seek the death penalty if he is convicted of first-degree murder.
The report says prosecutors wanted to ensure the crime scene was preserved so Smith’s attorney and any potential investigator could review it. Detectives believe the first started in the front of the living room in the main portion of the house.
Allegheny County’s first assistant district attorney Rebecca Spangler sent an email to City Solicitor Lourdes Sanchez Ridge on Jan. 16 requesting the property stay standing until a court order was issued for its demolition. The Pittsburgh law department relayed the information to the city’s Department of Permits, Licensing and Inspector and a hold was to be put in place.
The report says a private contractor was hired by the homeowner and obtained a permit from the city on Feb. 9. The demolition began Feb. 10. On Feb 12, the report says the homeowner contacted Pittsburgh Detective Martin Kail and told him demolition had started.
An addition on the house was torn down before the detective alerted city officials and a stop work order was issued. Assistant District Attorney Brian Catnzarite filed a motion in Common Pleas Court asking that the property be preserved and secured in its present state until a judge issues an order releasing the property. Common Pleas Judge Edward Borkowski granted the motion.
Detectives say in the report that Smith stopped at a gasoline station in Point Breeze at around 2:10 a.m., bought a gas can, filled it up and drove to the home. He is accused of dousing the three-story house in the gasoline and setting it on fire, killing Sandra Carter Douglas, 58; Chy’enne Manning, 4; and Shamira Staten, 21. The report says Smith is accused of setting the fire in retaliation for a fight outside a Penn Hills club with Carter Douglas’ son.