Manslaughter Trial in Fatal Carrollton Fire Continues

2-year-old son of suspect's boyfriend died in house fire

By Brian Scott
|  Thursday, Oct 31, 2013  |  Updated 7:55 PM CDT
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Thursday was the third day of the trial of Toni Barnett, who is charged with manslaughter in the August 2010 house fire that killed her boyfriend's 2-year-old son.

Brian Scott, NBC 5 Denton Reporter

Thursday was the third day of the trial of Toni Barnett, who is charged with manslaughter in the August 2010 house fire that killed her boyfriend's 2-year-old son.

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Testimony continued Thursday in the trial of a North Texas woman accused of setting a fire that killed her boyfriend's 2-year-old son.

Toni Barnett is charged with manslaughter in connection the fatal August 2010 fire at Carrollton home of Christian Smalls. His son, 2-year-old Braylen, died in the fire.

The prosecution called Barnett's former husband and several fire investigators to testify.

Dan Lesslie, a former Carrollton Fire Department arson investigator, told the jury the blaze likely reached temperatures of 1,200 in places and seemed to originate in the master bedroom.

Devin Palmer, a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent who investigated the fire said the remnants of a butane lighter were found at the foot of the bed. He said he was able to conclude through evidence that the fire started because of the introduction of an open flame to the bedding materials.

The testimony backed up what Herb Cavanaugh, a Carrollton Fire investigator, said. Cavanaugh said Smalls told him that he awoke to see Barnett at the foot of his bed with a lighter.

In earlier testimony, Smalls told the jury he had an argument with Barnett at a show his band was playing at on the night of the fire. He said they went back to his home, where he opened his eyes while dozing to see her clicking a butane lighter at the foot of it before later waking to find that the bed was on fire.

Smalls said he attempted to fight the fire and dragged the mattress into the hallway in an attempt to get it out of the house. Investigators say the mattress got stuck there.

On the second day of the trial, Smalls' oldest son told the jury that he and two of his brothers were able to get onto a roof from their second-story rooms, but their younger half-brothers, Braylen and Bryson, were stuck inside.

The 16-year-old testified that his father climbed onto the roof and broke through a window to grab Bryson out, but the smoke was too thick when he tried to go in for Braylen.

Toward the end of Thursday's testimony, prosecutors called Barnett's former husband to the stand. He testified that he did not know Barnett, his then-wife, was dating Smalls. He said he found out she was cheating on him, in jail on suspicion of arson and charged with the death of a 2-year-old in the same conversation.

Prosecuting attorneys said they expect to wrap up their case soon. The defense likely will begin calling witnesses on Friday morning.

If convicted, Barnett could face up to 20 years in prison.

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