Deadly Apartment Fire, Los Angeles

3 suspects facing murder charges in 1993 Los Angeles apartment fire claim innocence

Three Los Angeles people pleaded not guilty Tuesday of murder charges related to a deadly 1993 apartment complex fire that they allegedly started.

Ramiro Valerio 43, Joseph Monge, 41, and Johanna Lopez, 51, each were charged with 12 counts of special circumstances capital murder. All have pleaded “not guilty.”

Ten people in total were killed in the 1993 fire. Seven of them were children and three were women. Two of the women were pregnant when they died. District Attorney Jackie Lacey stated on Monday that the fire was the deadliest arson in California history, as reported by KTLA.

When the three arrests were announced on Monday, it was indicated that all three charged were involved in the 18th Street gang. However, Lopez was left out on Tuesday when the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office named only Valerio and Monge as gang members.

All three suspects can be given the death penalty because of the special circumstances allegations of multiple murders, and murder in the commission of arson. The district attorney’s offices stated that prosecutors have not decided yet if they will seek the death penalty or life in prison.

The fire that the trio are alleged to have started took place in Los Angeles on May 3, 1993.  The fire spread so quickly that women reportedly threw their babies out of windows hoping that their children would survive.

The ones who were killed in the fire died on the top floor from smoke inhalation. Dozens of others present in the building suffered injuries

The fire started when the building manager was moving furniture into her second-story apartment, and the mattress she left in the hallway was set on fire. The act was allegedly in retaliation of the building manager cracking down on gang drug deals in the complex. Prosecutors believe that Lopez was a cocaine dealer at the time of the fire.

Lopez was charged in 2011 with murder in the fire, and was already in custody when she was charged on Tuesday.

In 2013, the investigation was reopened when Assistant District Attorney Joseph Esposito began working with the LAPD’s Robbery-Homicide Division. Lacey stated that the case was too important not to close.

“It is a mass murder that required that we never give up.”

A preliminary hearing is set for February 21 and a readiness hearing is set for February 15.

All three are being held without bail.

[Feature Photo: AP/Doug Pizac,File]