Michael W. Bryant Jr. is expected to testify in his defense on charges of murder, arson and burglary in the Nov. 15, 2000, death of Edith Ann Haynes.
For 30 seconds Thursday, all eyes in the courtroom focused on a 2-foot section of fuse wire as a sparkler-like flame crept down its length.
The smell of sulfur lingered in Richmond County Superior Court after the demonstration of what would happen if yards of such wire found in Michael W. Bryant Jr.'s home were lit.
With that, the prosecution rested its case Thursday afternoon in Mr. Bryant's trial on charges of murder, arson and burglary in the Nov. 15, 2000, death of 57-year-old Edith Ann Haynes.
Mr. Bryant, 32, has pleaded innocent to the charges. He and other witnesses are expected to testify that he was in Columbia County when Ms. Haynes was found dead in her burning trailer at Windsor Court Mobile Home Park in south Augusta.
The first defense witness Thursday afternoon was a neighbor of Ms. Haynes, Evelyn Segur, who testified that she was the first person to realize Ms. Haynes' home was on fire. Ms. Segur testified that she banged on the home's walls and yelled to anyone who might be inside. When she hit the front door, it flew open and smoke billowed out, Ms. Segur testified. That's when she heard noises inside, as if someone were bumping into furniture, she said.
"I turned around and told my mom, 'I think somebody's in there,"' Ms. Segur testified.
No one came out the front door, and the heat and smoke kept her from going inside, she said. She didn't go to the back door, Ms. Segur testified.
According to the medical examiner who performed the autopsy on Ms. Haynes' body, she was dead before the fire reached her. Someone had beaten her and strangled her to death, he testified this week. Another expert witness testified that the fire was arson.
Although the fire expert showed the jury how easy it is to fashion a delayed-ignition device to start a fire minutes or hours after leaving a building, he found no evidence of such a device at Ms. Haynes' home.
Richmond County sheriff's Investigator James Gordon testified Thursday about what he found at Mr. Bryant's home, including his certificates for attending a firefighting academy, candles in the attic and the fuse wires.
Among stacks of overdue bills, Investigator Gordon found insurance documents that showed Mr. Bryant obtained fire insurance for a Smith Drive home he was buying from Ms. Haynes in 2000.
The first document shows Mr. Bryant took out a policy for the home five days before Ms. Haynes died. Documentation was also found that Mr. Bryant did not make a final $25,000 payment on the Smith Drive home until November 2001.
Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or email@example.com.