Webster teen found guilty of all counts in deadly 2011 fire

Posted at: 06/20/2013 11:19 AM | Updated at: 06/20/2013 5:25 PM

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He's only 17, but he's been found guilty of murder, for setting a fire that killed three of his family members.

After about twelve hours of deliberations, the jury came back and said they found Michael Pilato guilty on nine counts, including murder, attempted murder, murder by arson and arson. Pilato set his family's home on fire back in December of 2011, killing his father and two brothers. His mother and sister escaped.

For Michael Pilato's family, emotions were high as they sat waiting to hear the verdict after hours of jury deliberations. But not all the family was hoping for the same outcome. Most were hoping to see justice served for their father and two brothers killed in the fire,  but Pilato's mother was hoping for the jury to see her son through her eyes.

Elaine Pilato, Michael's mother, said, “He didn't do this on purpose. It was above and beyond. He's not a monster like she said. She only called him by his name once. He has a name.”

An emotional Elaine Pilato spoke briefly to News10NBC outside of court. She stood by her son throughout this process. She believes he never intended to kill her husband and two sons. She feels he was suffering from an extreme emotional disturbance.

Pilato said, “I don't know how you can look at those tapes and not see a disturbed youngster.”

But Pilato's stepsisters, Lisa and Angel, disagree completely.  They say the defense teams argument that Pilato was abused and neglected by their father, Carmen, couldn't be further from the truth.

Lisa Pilato-Reagan said, “Our father was our best friend. When we lost our father, we lost our best friend. Each one of us kids called and counted on our father. We couldn't wait to be in his presence. If we had a problem, we called our dad.”

Angel Pilato-Shuman said, “My father was strict, he wanted us to go to school, he wanted us to get a degree, he wanted us to be functioning members of the community. All he wanted for his children was the best.”

The sisters say their father only wanted the best for Michael and that he would have done anything for him. They explain what it was like to learn about the fire.

Pilato-Reagan said, “This was shocking. This was shocking.”

Pilato-Shuman said, “But Mike had been trouble for the last few years. He was out of control. My father was trying to get control over him. My father wasn't the abuser. Michael would push our father down to the ground.”

News10NBC's Amanda Ciavarri said, “What do you think of his demeanor during trial? He kind of just sat there, looked down, wrote some things, what do you think about that?”

Pilato-Shuman said, “I don't think he showed that he was truly remorseful at any point throughout the whole trial.

Pilato-Reagan said, “I was actually surprised there was no feeling at all.”

Lisa and Angel said that their brothers were amazing people too. They said 12-year-old Joshua wanted to go into the military and was a very respectful boy. They say that 16-year-old Peter was the kind of person that lit up the room and could make anyone laugh.

Emotions ran high not only for the family, but for the entire courtroom. One juror was actually crying and making the sign of the cross before the verdict was read.

James Nobles, Defense Attorney, said, “Well, it tells me a couple of things, you know, given the length of time they've deliberated. Twelve and thirteen hours at this point. They've certainly took their responsibilities seriously. I can't fault them that they jumped to a conclusion here, and I'm sure it was a very difficult decision for many of them. Many of the jurors had difficult looks on their faces and I'm sure it wasn't an easy decision.”

Sandra Doorley, Monroe County District Attorney, said, “You know it's a very difficult case, whenever you have to sit and sit in judgment of a 15-year-old, it's very difficult. But their duty here was to evaluate the facts and the law absent of any sympathies in regard to the defendant's age. In this case, the defendant, regardless of his age committed and violated the laws of our state and he needs to be held accountable and that's what the jury just did.”

Part of the verdict process is that each juror has to say they agree with the decision and the juror crying did tell the judge she agrees. But this wasn't an easy decision for them to come to. Pilato now faces seven and a half years to life behind bars. He is expected to be sentenced July 24.

Sandra Doorley did give News10NBC a copy of a song Pilato wrote just weeks before the fire where he talks about having a serial killer inside his head. To see those lyrics, click here.


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