READING, Pa. - It was a dramatic and emotional first day of testimony in a murder trial in Reading, where a Philadelphia man could face the death penalty.
Donald Williams stands accused of raping, beating and setting his former girlfriend, Maria Serrano, on fire in Reading four years ago.
Prosecutors presented key evidence Wednesday, including the 911 call made by Serrano while she was in agonizing pain.
"I feel sick. I feel horrible. I'm burning all over the place. Hurry up, I'm bleeding and there's a fire. You have to call the fire department," Serrano was heard saying.
Jessica Serrano, Maria's daughter, broke down in court. Tears rolled down her face when she heard her mother's voice played for the jury.
"It's been extremely difficult. Nobody wants their mother to go through anything like this," said Jessica, who is desperate for justice after a mistrial and delays.
On June 25, 2009, prosecutors said Williams ripped Serrano out of the shower, stabbed her with a screwdriver and raped her. Opening statements revealed she was dragged down into her basement, where she was doused with gasoline and set on fire.
"At that moment, I didn't recognize her. She looked like a monster. She had a lot of blood all over her face," said Juana Marte, who saw Serrano when she collapsed on her living room floor.
"My mom was my best friend. My mom was my world," said Luis Serrano, Maria's son, who took the stand.
At one point, Serrano and Williams loved each other and lived together in her home on Lincoln Street. Serrano broke off the relationship, and Williams became jealous, said Luis.
Williams was arrested the day of the fire at the ADAPPT house in Reading, where he was staying while on parole for a murder in Philadelphia. Officers testified he smelled of smoke.
Serrano was flown to Lehigh Valley Hospital near Allentown. Her hair was singed off and her clothes melted onto her skin. Serrano died six weeks later after suffering second and third degree burns to more than half her body.
"I just want this all over with. I want closure for myself and I want closure for my family," said Luis.
Williams sat calmly and quietly in the courtroom. His attorney said Williams will testify and tell jurors what happened four years ago. He said he is confident his client will be acquitted.
Allentown, PA 18102