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Two arrested in fatal house fire
Suspects face arson, murder charges
Smith Jill WEB
Smith

Authorities have arrested two people in connection with the death of a Forsyth County man in an October house fire.

Jill Smith, 34, and Peter Delaney, 37, have been charged by the Forsyth County Sheriff's Office with one count each of first degree arson and felony murder.

Smith, who was arrested Dec. 21 at a relative's house, is being held at the Forsyth County Detention Center. Bond has not been set.

Authorities said Delaney, who lives in Forsyth County, is awaiting extradition from Baton Rouge, La., where he was working Dec. 21.

Smith was the wife of Michael Smith, 37, who died Oct. 22 in a blaze at their home at 5540 Kennemore Drive off Union Hill Road in south Forsyth.

Authorities have previously said Michael Smith became trapped inside the house during the blaze, which started about 10:40 p.m., and suffered severe burns all over his body.

"The victim was upstairs in the bedroom in bed," said Sheriff's Lt. Col. Gene Moss. "He was found in the bathroom adjoining the master bedroom."

Moss said Jill Smith and Delaney were in the house the night of the fire.

Authorities declined to describe the nature of suspects' relationship, saying only that they were "acquaintances."

Contacted after the arrests, relatives of Michael Smith declined to comment on the matter.

Moss said Delaney was working in Baton Rouge at the time of his arrest.

Delaney's attorney, Rafe Banks, said he had offered to have his client turn himself in when he returned home that night. He could not understand why authorities didn't wait.

"He was at the house the evening of the fire," Banks said of his client, who is a pilot. "There's no dispute about that. But being there doesn't make you guilty of murder."

Forsyth County Fire Capt. Jason Shivers described the investigation as a collaborative effort between the fire department and sheriff's office.

He characterized the teamwork between the two agencies as "critical."