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Man Sentenced A 2nd Time In Death Of Detroit Firefighter

DETROIT (WWJ/AP) - A judge has again sentenced a convicted arsonist to at least 41 years in prison for a fire that killed a Detroit firefighter in 2008.

The case was sent back to Wayne County Judge Michael James Callahanby by the appeals court, which said the judge didn't fully explain why Mario Willis should get a sentence that exceeded guidelines.

Judge Callahan said the death of Walt Harris was foreseeable because the house had been severely damaged by a prior fire.

Willis was accused of paying a handyman $20 to burn down the abandoned two-story house, which belonged to his girlfriend. In 2010, Willis was convicted of arson and second-degree murder.

firefighter comfort
Syri Harris is seen with her son in the front row in court on Friday. (credit: Mike Campbell/WWJ)

Harris, a 19-year veteran of the Detroit Fire Department, and other members of Engine 23 were trapped when the roof of the house collapsed. The other crewmen were rescued, but Harris' life couldn't be saved.

Harris' widow, Syri Harris, said having to return to court was a "slap in the face."

"Absolutely, it brought it back," Harris said. "It's overwhelming at times, but I try to just ... keep on and move forward."

"It's been traumatic," she added. "My six boys have been through a lot. We just continue to focus on the vision that my husband had for our family, and we just keep moving forward."

Harris thanked several firefighters who sat with her in the audience Friday in a show of support.

TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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