Three Suspects Arrested In Connection With 1993 Apartment Complex Fire
On Friday, the Los Angeles Police Department arrested Ramiro Valerio, 43, of Palmdale, and Joseph Monge, 41, of Montebello, in connection with an apartment fire from 24 years ago. On Tuesday, a third person connected to the fire, Johanna Lopez, 51, already in custody, will be arrested. According to the L.A. Times, these arrests cap "a decades-long investigation into what is considered one of the worst arson fires in L.A. history."
"A fourth individual is currently being sought in connection with this case," a press release by the Los Angeles Police Department states, but the suspect is believed to have fled the country, and will remain anonymous until his apprehension.
Twelve people died in the May 3, 1993, fire that ravaged an apartment complex in the Westlake neighborhood."During the course of the investigation, it was learned that the fire was set as a warning to individuals who resided in the apartment complex and were attempting to stop the illegal sales of narcotics that were occurring at the apartment complex," the release adds.
"In this case, time was on our side," Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey said, reports the Los Angeles Times. "During the original investigation, witnesses who were living in fear of the gang members that controlled their neighborhood would not cooperate with the police. Now 24 years later, they are willing to testify to what they saw and heard on that deadly day.”
The suspects are believed to have been under the protection of the 18th Street Gang, with Lopez acting as the head of Columbia Lil Cycos (an 18th Street clique). ABC 7 reports that the investigators determined the identity of the primary suspects after reviving the investigation in early 2013.
Gregory Rubel, an attorney for Valerio, said Friday that his client's arrest was unwarranted. “Every time someone gets assigned to [this case], they arrest him." He added this was Valerio's “fourth or fifth” arrest in connection to the fire.
"This case is a reminder of what it was like to live in Los Angeles County in the early 1990s, when drug-fueled violence was at its height,” Lacey continued. “We believe the blaze was started to intimidate an apartment manager and others who wanted to rid the building of drug dealers."
Valerio is being held on $25 million bail. Monge's bail is set to $2 million.