Trial of man accused in 1996 slayings begins

January 15, 2008 5:36:51 PM PST
Their suburban mansion burned to the ground a dozen years ago. The bodies of Marvin and Kay Lichtman were found inside. Tuesday, Peter Hommerson goes on trial for murdering the Barrington couple.

Hommerson had been hired by the Lichtmans. He was arrested three years ago in Mexico after police received a tip about his whereabouts.

This case lingered for years until a television show gave authorities a tip that led them to Mexico. And interestingly, that same television show is the reason that one juror was excused as the case against Hommerson got under way.

Attorneys involved in the case did not comment on camera. They gave opening statements as Peter Hommerson sat at the defense table. He is accused of shooting Kay and Marvin Lichtman in their Barrington Hills home then setting it on fire.

The Lichtmans home burned and they were found inside. Hommerson was hired by the Lichtmans to do a glass etching.

Battalion Chief Michael Freese was a fire captain in Barrington at the time of the fire in 1996. He testified Tuesday about the suspicious nature of the fire.

"There were some suspicious factors in the fact that the fire escalated so quickly, and the high heat throughout the entire house prior to the structure actually being burned," said Freese.

Prosecutors allege Hommerson fled to Mexico with stolen art to avoid prosecution. Hommerson's defense attorneys contend there is no scientific evidence linking Hommerson to the crimes and that he had no motivation.

Also Tuesday, the judge dismissed one juror because she realized she had seen Hommerson on America's Most Wanted and had already decided he is guilty.

The juror who did not want to comment told the judge she thought anyone who would flee is guilty. An alternate juror took her place.

The trial is expected to last about a week.