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No bond for two charged in fatal arson
Defense attorney cites suspect's pregnancy
Delaney
Delaney

Bond was denied a second time Thursday for two suspects charged with first degree arson and felony murder stemming from a fatal house fire last fall.

Jill Smith, 34, and Peter Delaney, 37, are being held in connection with an Oct. 22 blaze at Smith’s south Forsyth home that killed her husband, Michael.

Both Smiths were in the home at the time of the fire, as were Jill Smith’s son and Delaney, with whom officials have said she was having an affair.

Michael Smith became trapped inside the house during the blaze, authorities have said, and suffered severe burns all over his body.

He was found in a bathroom adjoining the master bedroom upstairs in the couple's home at 5540 Kennemore Drive, off Union Hill Road in south Forsyth.

Jill Smith’s attorney, Kyle Epps, sought bond for his client and asked the court to allow access to medical care, as Smith is reportedly more than four months pregnant. 

Epps said the detention center has denied her medical care. She hasn’t seen a doctor and “the only way we know that she’s pregnant is the test the nurse gave her at the jail.”

“The viability of the fetus is definitely at risk,” he said. “It would certainly make life a lot easier for us to protect the viability of this unborn child if she’s not incarcerated.”

However, District Attorney Penny Penn said other pregnant women have been held in jail, as have patients with cancer and head injuries.

“This can be remedied judge, all the court has to do is sign an order that she needs to be taken to an OB/GYN,” said Penn, noting a pregnancy would not change Smith's case.

In addition to denying bond, Judge David Dickinson said he would direct authorities to take Smith to a physician, as well as alert doctors to her other medical issues, including spinal surgeries that involved plates and prosthetic vertebrae.

Attorney Rafe Banks, who represents Delaney, said the court found his client a flight risk during a previous bond hearing in December.

But, he said, the “nature of the evidence is so weak” against Delaney, “nobody’s going to run from that.”

In his argument, Banks pulled select lines from the evidence in attempt to show the case is based on speculation.

Banks also noted that there are “two investigators saying we’ve got no evidence that points to Mr. Delaney.”

Penn countered that most arson cases are circumstantial in nature.

“It is very rare that someone is seen running from a fire with a gas can in one hand and a lighter in the other yelling, ‘I just set this house on fire.’ That’s the nature of these types of cases,” she said.

Penn also noted when the case goes before a grand jury March 14, there will be more than the two investigators as witnesses.

With no changes in the evidence, Dickinson denied Delaney's request for bond.