Juan Ignacio Blanco  


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Juwan Knumar DEERING





Classification: Mass murderer
Characteristics: Drug dealer - $200 crack-cocaine debt
Number of victims: 5
Date of murders: April 6, 2000
Date of birth: February 19, 1971
Victims profile: Taleigha Dean, 10, Craig Dean, 8, Aaron Dean, 7, Eugene Dean, 6, and their cousin, Michelle Frame, 11
Method of murder: Fire (splashed the Dean family's porch with charcoal lighter fluid and set the home ablaze)
Location: Oakland County, Michigan, USA
Status: Sentenced to life in prison witjout parole on August 23, 2006
photo gallery

Trial opens for Michigan man accused of killing five children in fire over drug debt

Nov. 29, 2005

(Court TV) On the evening of April 6, 2000, 6-year-old Eugene Dean was celebrating his last birthday when a prowler splashed the Dean family's porch with charcoal lighter fluid and set the Michigan home ablaze.

Eugene's mother, Marie Dean, managed to escape with four of her children. But trapped inside were Eugene, his 10-year-old sister Taleigha, brothers Craig, 8, Aaron, 7, and their 11-year-old cousin, Michelle Frame. All died in the inferno from burn injuries and smoke inhalation.

Six years later, a reputed drug dealer will stand trial for allegedly causing the five tragic deaths over a $200 crack-cocaine debt.

A jury panel of six men and seven women was selected this week in Oakland County Circuit Court in Pontiac, paving the way for opening statements Thursday in the trial of 35-year-old Juwan Deering.

Deering, whose rap sheet for misdemeanor offenses such as narcotics possession and driving without a license dates back to 1989, faces life without parole on five counts of felony murder and one count of arson. Michigan does not have the death penalty.

Prosecutors claim that Deering set fire to the home to get back at Marie Dean's estranged husband, Oliver "Big Mike" Dean, who allegedly owed the defendant $200 in drug money. But the father was in a treatment facility for his crack cocaine addition when the incident occurred. He died from a drug-related heart attack one month after the deaths of his four children.

In a case absent of forensic evidence linking Deering to the crime, lawyers for the small-time hustler claim authorities have the wrong person.

Prosecutors are relying on statements the repeat offender allegedly made to several jailhouse informants to tie him to the crime.

Several months after the fire, while Deering was in jail for resisting arrest during a traffic stop, authorities placed a cellmate with him in an attempt to elicit damning statements. The ploy worked, according to prosecutors, and Deering allegedly described how he used charcoal lighter fluid to start the blaze.

When Deering returned to jail in 2001, prosecutors claim he voluntarily told another cellmate he was working on an alibi and wanted to take antidepressants to throw off a lie detector test. The statements were admitted against strenuous objections from the defense.

Again, when Deering was back in jail in 2003 for violating probation, authorities sent in another inmate to elicit incriminating statements from him. Sure enough, according to prosecutors, Deering allegedly told the informant that he only wanted to "send a message" to Oliver Dean the night of the fire and that he never intended to harm the children.

Then finally, after Deering was taken into custody in March 2006 on murder and arson charges, a bailiff from his preliminary hearing told authorities that Deering remarked that one of his jailhouse snitches would not leave jail alive.

Apart from the magnitude of the tragedy associated with the crime, the case has also gained notoriety for the county's handling of the case, or rather, its failure to pursue it.

Charges were brought against Deering this year only after deputy prosecuting attorney James Halushka resigned amid allegations of professional misconduct. Following his departure, the Detroit Free Press obtained a memo through the Freedom of Information Act suggesting that Halushka purposely buried the investigation into Deering's involvement, though it is still unclear why he allegedly did so. 


Michigan jury convicts drug dealer of murder for setting house fire that killed five kids

By Emanuella Grinberg - Court TV

Aug. 1, 2006

A Michigan drug dealer was convicted of first-degree felony murder and arson Tuesday for the deaths of five children in a house fire six years ago.

The six-man, six-woman jury deliberated for just under five hours before reaching its verdict against 35-year-old Juwan Deering, who prosecutors alleged set the fire on the front porch to "send a message" to a man who owed him a crack cocaine debt.

On the evening of April 6, 2000, that man, Oliver "Big Mike" Dean, no longer lived in the Royal Oak Township home. Instead, four of his eight children died in the blaze, along with an 11-year-old cousin.

Rescuers pulled Craig, 8, Aaron, 7, and Eugene, who had celebrated his sixth birthday earlier that day, from the two-story house, but they later died from smoke inhalation.

Their 10-year-old sister, Taleigha, also died in an upstairs room of the house with their 11-year-old cousin, Michelle Frame.

The defendant bowed his head slightly after the first count was read, and later shook his head slightly as he was led out in waist and wrist shackles.

The announcement of the verdict was delayed nearly two hours to allow time for the young victims' mother, Marie Dean, and Michelle Frame's father, Paul Frame to get to the courthouse for the verdict.

The pair broke into sobs and hugged each other as the jury foreperson read aloud each of the verdicts on five counts of murder and one count of arson.

"I don't think I'll ever have closure, but it will make things better knowing someone is paying for what happened," Paul Frame told Court TV after the verdict.

"He took something precious from me. She was very smart, beautiful, she was a light. He took something very important from this world  she was going to be something," Frame said of his daughter, Michelle, who would have celebrated her 18th birthday this September.

The defendant faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole on five counts of first-degree felony murder and one count of arson when he is sentenced Aug. 23.

The panelists indicated they were stuck on the defendant's level of culpability earlier Tuesday, when they sent a note to the court asking for clarification on the difference between felony and second-degree murder. The former requires elements of intent and premeditation that are not necessary for second-degree murder.

In his closing argument Monday, Oakland County prosecuting attorney Greg Townsend said he did not believe Deering intended to kill the children.

Townsend told the panel that Deering was still guilty of first-degree felony murder for setting the fire, fully aware that doing so would likely cause death or great bodily harm.

Defense attorney Arnold Weiner told the panel Monday that, while his client may have had a beef with "Big Mike" Dean, he had absolutely nothing to do with the fire. The lawyer pointed to a lack forensic evidence or eyewitness testimony to support his claim.

From the trial's start, Townsend conceded to the jury that the case against the defendant was purely circumstantial.

In five days, prosecutors called 21 witnesses, including friends and neighbors of the defendant with links to the local drug trade, who testified that Deering admitted he was tired of being "dicked around" by Dean.

Three jailhouse informants, including two whom authorities placed in the same cell with Deering to elicit information, testified that Deering admitted setting the fire but told one that he "didn't mean for them damn kids to die."

Townsend expressed relief over the jury's verdict, but said he was confident in his case.

"I felt from the outset the evidence was very compelling," Townsend told Court TV. "I believe justice for the five children will be a great relief for Paul and Marie."



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