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Guilty verdict in heater deaths

A man who sold his house without disclosing it contained a faulty gas heater has been found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the deaths of three people.

Stephen Converse Brooks, 38, faces up to 45 years in prison on his conviction in the deaths of a married couple and their infant daughter.

The verdict reached Saturday tells sellers "in very clear terms that they need to disclose or fix problems in their homes that are dangerous and are not obvious," said Chittenden County State's Attorney Scot Kline.

John Cifarelli, 34, and his wife Linda, 26, moved into the house in Burlington, located on Lake Champlain in western Vermont, in August 1988.

On Dec. 10, 1988, the couple and their 23-month-old daughter, Nina, were found dead. Another daughter and a visitor survived.

The deaths were blamed on carbon-monoxide fumes from a faulty gas-powered heater used to push hot water through underground coils and melt ice off the home's steep driveway.

Prosecutors maintain Brooks knew about the malfunction because he had taken his former girlfriend and daughter to a hospital in November 1987 for what was diagnosed as carbon-monoxide poisoning.

Defense lawyer Robert Andres blamed installation errors by gas company employees.

Legal experts have said it is rare, if not unique, for homicide charges to be filed in connection with the sale of a home.