Testimony: Ex-wife thinks defendant committed 1995 Naperville arson, murder

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

 
 
Updated 1/25/2018 8:00 PM

On the night her mother died more than 22 years ago, Tina Miceli and her then-husband, William Amor, were preparing to go to a drive-in movie when she realized she had forgotten her cigarettes.

When she returned to the Naperville condominium that she and Amor shared with her mother, Miceli didn't see or smell anything unusual in the living room.

 

About 20 minutes after the couple left, the condo was on fire and Tina Miceli's mother, Marianne, was trapped in her smoke-filled bedroom waiting for help to arrive. By the time firefighters got to her, she was dead on the bedroom floor from smoke inhalation.

Now Amor is being retried on charges of first-degree murder and arson in the Sept. 10, 1995, death of his mother-in-law. His 1997 conviction was vacated last April.

On Thursday, Tina Miceli testified during the second day of Amor's bench trial at the DuPage County courthouse.

Miceli said she initially thought the fire was an accident. But within weeks, she said, she came to believe it wasn't an accident and filed for divorce.

Prosecutors allege that Amor, now 62, set the fire that killed Marianne Miceli in an attempt to collect insurance money so he and his then-18-year-old wife could move out of the third-story condo at 218 E. Baily Road.

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Prosecutors say Amor was unemployed and penniless and blamed Marianne Miceli for problems in his marriage. In the summer of 1995, Amor wrote a letter to his wife saying he had a "plan of attack" to make money so they could move.

One of Amor's defense attorneys pointed out that Tina Miceli thought the fire was an accident because she didn't see anything suspicious on the day of the fire.

On Thursday, Tina Miceli testified that it was her idea to go to the movies.

She also said she was the one who told Amor they were running late and had to leave. At the time, Amor was talking to her mother. She said the two got along and were friends.

Everyone in the condominium had been smoking cigarettes throughout the day. In addition, Amor had been drinking vodka from a large bottle, police testified.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Before they left, Tina Miceli heard Amor turn off the television and saw him finish his drink before putting the cup into the kitchen sink, according to her testimony.

When she returned briefly, she didn't notice anything unusual. However, she also acknowledged that she was focused only on grabbing her cigarettes and walking back out.

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 the condo. His attorneys have maintained the confession was coerced.

Last April, Judge Liam Brennan vacated Amor's conviction after ruling that advances in fire science proved the description Amor gave in his original confession to police was impossible.

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.

Amor has been free on $100,000 bail since May 31, 2017.

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

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