Trial begins in 1995 Naperville arson murder with focus on insurance

  • William Amor and his attorneys, Lauren Kaeseberg and Lauren Myerscough-Mueller, listen to Assistant State's Attorney Thomas Minser's opening statement Wednesday at the DuPage County Courthouse. Amor is on trial for first-degree murder and arson in the 1995 death of his mother-in-law in Naperville.

    William Amor and his attorneys, Lauren Kaeseberg and Lauren Myerscough-Mueller, listen to Assistant State's Attorney Thomas Minser's opening statement Wednesday at the DuPage County Courthouse. Amor is on trial for first-degree murder and arson in the 1995 death of his mother-in-law in Naperville. Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • Prosecutors say William Amor, left, wanted to kill his mother-in-law to collect insurance money so he and his wife could move out of the government housing apartment they shared with her in Naperville.

    Prosecutors say William Amor, left, wanted to kill his mother-in-law to collect insurance money so he and his wife could move out of the government housing apartment they shared with her in Naperville. Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • Defense Attorney Lauren Kaeseberg argues that authorities rushed to judgment in charging William Amor with the 1995 murder of his mother-in-law.

    Defense Attorney Lauren Kaeseberg argues that authorities rushed to judgment in charging William Amor with the 1995 murder of his mother-in-law. Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • Prosecutors say William Amor originally planned to drug his mother-in-law but was uncertain what was needed to insure an overdose.

    Prosecutors say William Amor originally planned to drug his mother-in-law but was uncertain what was needed to insure an overdose. Daniel White | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 1/24/2018 6:06 PM

When it came to murdering his mother-in-law, prosecutors say arson was actually William Amor's second choice.

He wanted to drug her, they say, but he had difficulty figuring out the quantity necessary to ensure an overdose.

 

So instead, prosecutors allege, Amor, 62, ignited the fire that killed Marianne Miceli on Sept. 10, 1995, as she remained trapped in her smoke-filled bedroom waiting for help to arrive.

Prosecutors say Amor killed her in an attempt to collect insurance money so he and his then 18-year-old wife could move out of the Miceli's government assistance third-story apartment at 218 E. Bailey in Naperville.

"His marriage was on the rocks. He had no job. He had no money. He was stressed and he blamed Marianne for the problems in his marriage," Assistant State's Attorney Thomas Minser said in his opening statement Wednesday in Amor's new trial on the murder charges. "Killing Marianne solved his problem. The insurance money would be paid out to (his wife) Tina and the defendant gets rid of the anchor that was tearing apart his marriage."

However, Marianne Miceli's sister, Pamela Leavenworth, testified later that she was the beneficiary of the policy and intended to put the money away for Tina's future. She said she didn't feel it would be responsible for someone with Tina's "cognitive and learning deficiencies" to be put in charge of a large sum of money.

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Leavenworth also testified to Marianne's physical disability and bipolar diagnosis and said she was in charge of managing Miceli's finances and things that needed to be done around the apartment, which was owned by their brother.

Amor's attorney, Lauren Kaeseberg, said his client had nothing to gain from any insurance payout and instead was the victim of law enforcement's tunnel vision.

"This case had an impact on first responders and law enforcement and they wanted to help the Miceli family find answers," Kaeseberg said. "From the moment they met Bill Amor at the scene, they had their answer."

Amor confessed in 1995 that he started the fire by leaving a smoldering cigarette on a newspaper that had been soaked in vodka just before he and Tina Miceli left to see a movie. His attorneys have maintained the confession was coerced.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Three fire science experts testified last spring that not only would a cigarette not ignite a newspaper and vodka, but that lab-tested samples found no ignitable liquids at the scene.

Kaeseberg told Judge Liam Brennan that without the confession, there is no evidence.

"Make them prove it was an arson. Make them prove it was a murder. They can't do it," she said.

In April, Brennan vacated Amor's 1997 murder conviction on charges he intentionally ignited the September 1995 fire, after ruling that advances in fire science proved the description Amor gave in his original confession to police was impossible.

Amor has been free on $100,000 bail since May 31.

Had his conviction not been overturned, Amor would have been released from prison in March after serving half his original sentence.

Prosecutors say Tina Miceli will take the stand at 10 a.m. Thursday in courtroom 4012.

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