Ghost Ship witness claims she heard group of men bragging about fire

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- Defense attorneys believe a woman who claims she heard men bragging about the Ghost Ship fire is a key witness -- one who could help exonerate defendants Derick Almena and Max Harris.

Sharon Evans wasn't inside the warehouse the night of the fire, but she claims she saw a group of men outside, laughing and talking about having set the fire.

RELATED: Ghost Ship trial: Man testifies he thought he'd die in fire

"She's hugely important because this is the most direct evidence we have that this was arson," explained Tyler Smith, one of the attorneys for Harris.

"She talks about hearing these guys bragging, practically high-fiving, congratulating each other."

Evans testified outside the presence of the jury at a hearing to decide what exactly she can testify to when the panel returns Monday. Normally witnesses are not allowed to testify about what other people said, but there are exceptions.

RELATED: Ghost Ship Trial: Witness says Almena laughed at making improvements to warehouse

In court, Evans told the judge: "I heard them congratulating everyone on how they set the fire in the back and no one was going to be able to get out of the building."

Investigators did determine the fatal fire started in the rear of the warehouse, but not exactly how.

Defense attorneys will argue if the December 2016 fire was arson, then defendants Almena and Harris must be innocent.

"If that's the best they can do, then they're just desperate," said David Gregory, the father of 20-year-old Michela Gregory, who died in the fire.

"It's been torture, for us. It's a daily reminder. I mean, there's no escaping our reality. We live with this everyday."

The defense is set to begin Monday. Their attorneys say both Almena and Harris will take the stand at some point to testify in their own defense.

Take a look at the latest stories and videos about the Ghost Ship Fire trial.
Copyright © 2019 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.