Lima man gets life term in half-brother's fiery death

·2 min read

Jan. 28—LIMA — A young Lima man who as a teenager intentionally started a fire that claimed the life of his half-brother was sentenced Friday to life in prison.

Jervon Fernandez-Wesley, 20, pleaded guilty last month to one count of murder, an unspecified felony, in connection with an Aug. 15, 2020, fire at 128 W. Circular St. in Lima that claimed the life of 14-year-old Michael Gillyard.

On Friday, Allen County Common Pleas Court Judge Terri Kohlrieser sentenced Fernandez-Wesley to a mandatory prison term of 15-years to life.

Speaking softly in a voice that was barely audible, Fernandez-Wesley apologized to the court and to his family for his actions. "I never meant for any of this to happen," he told the judge.

Defense attorney Anthony VanNoy said his client is truly remorseful and will "spend a lifetime trying to rebuild himself and forgive himself while thinking about how a few moments of immaturity and anger can cause so much pain."

Lima firefighters were dispatched to the fire scene in the early-morning hours of Aug. 15, 2020, and observed heavy smoke coming from the duplex. Firefighters were informed there was someone inside that residence, and firefighters went inside to perform a search.

They located Gillyard in an upstairs bedroom. He was unresponsive and was taken to Mercy Health-St. Rita's Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead. There were six people inside the home at the time of the blaze; Gillyard was the only one who did not make it out alive.

Lima Fire Department Investigator Joe Lombardo determined the fire was suspicious. The Lima Police Department started an investigation into the matter and ultimately determined that Fernandez-Wesley set the fire.

Court documents show he had been kicked out of the home a few hours before the fire started.

Fernandez-Wesley initially told police he was sleeping at a friend's house at the time of the fire. He later admitted he started the blaze by lighting a stuffed animal on fire in the bathroom, as well as lighting several papers in the kitchen.

Prior to handing down her sentence, Kohlrieser referred to statements Fernandez-Wesley's mother made in a pre-sentence report.

"Your mom is mourning the loss of two sons. A 14-year-old is gone forever and now you've got to go away for a long time. But your mother said she believes in forgiveness and that she still loves you," the judge said. "I wish you the best of luck and I hope you will find some sense of healing."