Witness testimony in the trial of a man accused of killing his pregnant ex-girlfriend and setting fire to her home continued Thursday.
From neighbors, to firefighters, to people just driving by on Fifth Avenue, they all became witnesses to a crime at 271 Fifth Avenue on April 3, 2014 in a matter of minutes.
Nicholas and his brother, Jeffrey Cook, lived in the home next to 271 Fifth Avenue. Just after 11 p.m. on April 3, 2014, Nicholas says he heard a loud bang and looked out his window to see a man standing in the Pizza Hut parking lot, a car stopped on Fifth Avenue, and a fire next door. Nicholas and his brother then chased the man.
"I had a strong feeling that he may have caused the fire," said Nicholas Cook on the stand.
Defense attorney Frederick Rench questioned everything Nicholas recollected down to the number of seconds it took him to run outside. He also pointed out slight inconsistencies with Cook’s testimony on Thursday vs. his statement to the police a little more than two years ago.
"You never told police that person was looking back at the house, did you?" asked Rench.
Cook said no after examining his original statement given to police a day after the fire. He testified Thursday morning that he saw the man staring at the fire before he took off on foot.
The driver of the car Nicholas Cook saw may have been Corrine Tario. She says she almost ran over a man crossing Fifth Avenue around the same time. Tario later identified that man as Gabriel Vega.
The 20-year-old is accused of strangling and killing his pregnant ex-girlfriend and then setting fire to her apartment to cover up the crime.
While fighting the flames, firefighters found Milligan’s body face down on the floor of her bedroom.
"She was very badly burned; much of her skin had split, which was indication of a very bad fire," said Troy Battalion Chief Thomas Miter during witness testimony.
On Thursday, State Fire Investigator Richard Daus took the stand. He says the fire started in Vanessa Milligan’s bedroom from ignitable liquids.
"I noticed almost immediately the odor of what I believed to be gasoline," said Daus.
A neighbor in a previous testimony, who had gone inside Milligan’s apartment to try to get her out, said she never heard an alarm. Daus said there was a smoke detector, and it wasn’t battery operated, but rather gets power from a distribution box in the basement.
He says the breaker that supplied power to the smoke detector and refrigerator was off, but it couldn’t have been off for that long because "the food in the refrigerator was still cold to the touch."
The trial will resume Friday morning with continued testimony from Daus.