Date: 10/1/2008 6:10 PM

By THOMAS J. SHEERAN

CLEVELAND (AP) _ A man already in prison on drug and weapons charges was indicted Wednesday in a 2005 house fire that killed nine people, including eight children at a birthday sleepover.

Antun Lewis, 24, of Cleveland, was charged with arson in the house fire in May 2005 in a poor neighborhood that outraged residents across Cleveland. Lewis could face the death penalty if convicted.

Friends and relatives of the victims had expressed frustration with the slow investigation by federal, county and city authorities.

“This case has haunted this community for 3½ years,” said Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Mason. “It’s been a very complex and difficult case.”

The indictment said Lewis committed the offense “after substantial planning and premeditation to cause the death of a person.”

A phone message seeking comment from attorney William Guarnieri, who represented Lewis in his 2005 drug case, was not immediately returned.

Authorities previously said gasoline was used to start the fire. It blackened the interior, popped out windows and created a flaming nighttime silhouette that led to nonstop calls to 911 from neighbors.

A heart-wrenching funeral, with mourners slumping in grief over white caskets, drew 4,000 people to a convention center.

Deputy Police Chief Ed Tomba said the mother of one of the victims, Medeia Carter, apparently knew Lewis.

Carter, 33, died in the fire along with four of her five children. She rented the federally subsidized house, which gave federal prosecutors jurisdiction, said U.S. Attorney Bill Edwards.

Carter and the eight children were found on the second floor of the 2½-story, 99-year-old home, about 3 miles from downtown. All died of smoke inhalation.

Lewis has been in state prison since June 2005 on unrelated drug and weapons charges.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.

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