Edward Freudenberg was the first firefighter to arrive at 47 Hickory St. just before the sun came up on Aug. 11, 2009. As a video shot by another member of the fire department showed, the blaze was tremendous, with flames and smoke pouring out of every window. He said he was told people were inside, so he went in through an open side door.
He crawled through the house, hugging the walls so he wouldn't get disoriented, until he reached a backroom.
"I found three bodies on the floor," he said, during questioning by Assistant District Attorney John Cortes before Judge James Hudson.
They were Mykier Daniels, 28; her boyfriend, Louis Calixto Jr., 19; and her sister, Katrice Daniels, 31.
Although the bodies were burned, they were dead before the fire started, prosecutors say -- tortured, stabbed, shot and strangled by Hasan Vaughan and Thomas Singletary, both 36, of Central Islip.
They are charged with first-degree murder, arson and other crimes, and face life in prison without parole if convicted.
After being warned for weeks during jury selection that some evidence would be gruesome, jurors saw photographs of the bodies as Freudenberg had found them, lying on the floor of the room. A partial door that had burned off its hinges lay across one body. Blood trickled from beneath another.
Calixto's mother covered her mouth as the photos were shown, then cried quietly and rocked in her seat. The Daniels sisters' father wiped away tears.
Later, Suffolk Police Sgt. Scott Welshimer testified that when he briefly entered the house before Freudenberg, he noticed what appeared to be blood stains on the storm door and on a stool just inside the door.
Assistant District Attorney Robert Biancavilla told jurors that DNA taken from blood and burned flesh from inside the house matched Vaughan and Singletary.