After a 12-member jury found two men guilty of killing 8-year-old Quayshawn Roberson in a deadly 2011 fire, the boy’s dad stood on the courthouse steps, his eyes brimming with tears.
“I’ll see him in heaven,” he said. “It hurts.”
Lawrence Alexander (pictured at top), the dad, had just emerged from a first-floor courtroom in U.S. District Court on Church Street, where a federal jury found a father and son guilty of intentionally setting the fire that killed three people in Fair Haven.
“Guilty,” the foreman said 11 times just before 2 p.m. Thursday in U.S. District Court on Church Street.
“They’re all liars!” a woman seated in the courtroom yelled in response.
The jury found Hector Natal and his father, Hector Morales, guilty on all 11 combined counts related to setting the March 9, 2011, blaze at Poplar and Wolcott streets that killed Wanda Roberson, her son, second-grader Quayshawn Roberson, and Jaqueeta Roberson, her niece. It was one of New Haven’s most horrific homicide cases in years.
The courtroom was packed Thursday afternoon as the verdict was revealed. Supporters of the defendants, including family members, sat on one side, from which the “liar” remark came.
“Keep your head up Boom-Boom,” the woman said to Natal, as marshals took him away.
Natal seemed dazed. The woman called his nickname “Boom-Boom” several times before he turned to look at her, tears in his eyes.
“Don’t worry,” added a man near her. “We’re going to appeal.”
Family members of the deceased sat on the left side of the courtroom, behind the prosecuting attorneys.
Judge Janet Arterton gave both sides two weeks to file post-trial motions. She did not set a date for sentencing.
Both prosecuting and defense attorneys declined to comment after the verdict.
Natal, 27, and Morales, 51, live in Fair Haven. Or did.
Hector Natal was a special-education student when he dropped out of school at 16 and never learned how to read well. He has received outpatient substance abuse treatment in the past. Those facts came out in a courtroom in 2011 when he pleaded guilty to an unrelated crack-dealing charge. (Read about that here.)
Details of the crime’s savagery brought tears to people’s eyes in the courtroom over the past weeks. Testimony in the trial also raised thorny questions of how the state should deal with needed witnesses in prosecutions like this one, which involve witnesses who themselves have checkered personal histories, as recounted in some of the stories linked at the bottom of this story.
The woman who had shouted in court left the courthouse trailed by children and TV cameras. “They’re all liars!” she repeated as she walked down the steps of of the courthouse. (She declined to be identified.)
Members of the Roberson family emerged next.
“Justice has been served!” shouted Lynn (at left in photo) Roberson, putting her hands up in the air. “We can go on with our lives now.”
Sherell Roberson (at right), Wanda Roberson’s cousin, said she was nervous about the verdict, after Judge Arterton had talked to the jury about “reasonable doubt.” When she heard the foreman say “guilty,” however, “the tears just started coming from my eyes,” Sherell said.
“These were happy tears,” she said. “Our god in heaven, he promised us justice, and we got it.”
Lynette Murphy, another cousin, acknowledged that Natal and Morales’ family would lose the father and son to prison.
“They can always go visit,” she said. “We can’t see our loved ones.”
“I wish he was here,” said Alexander, Quayshawn’s dad. “I feel closure, but I’m still hurt because he’s not here.”
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