Friends and family gathered outside the charred remains of Top Notch Recordings, nearly a week after two men were killed in an arson fire inside the Studio City business, to honor their lives on Friday.
Devaughn Carter, 28, and 30-year-old Michael Pollard were burned alive and two others were left critically injured in the April 14 blaze inside the recording studio at 3779 Cahuenga Blvd.
Efrem Zimbalist Demery, 28, has been charged with purposefully setting fire to the single-story building that holds rentable recording rooms with the intent of killing Carter and Pollard by the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.
Demery was with the dead victims the night before and had a dispute with them hours before the studio went up in flames shortly before 7 a.m., according to Los Angeles police investigators, although detectives are still working to piece together why the argument would escalate to deadly violence.
Demery had been friends with Pollard for years, officials said, but loved ones told KTLA Carter was simply supporting his friend Pollard that morning and wasn't involved in the disagreement.
“Devaughn didn’t have anything to do with this," his aunt, Latonya Lewis, said. "You know, at the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Police believe Demery lit fire to the building by purchasing fuel at a nearby gas station and returning to pour it in the hallway outside the room Pollard and Carter were in. He was linked to crime by surveillance video as well as forensic evidence, investigators said.
The other two victims, a 15-year-old girl and man in his 20s, were also in the studio at the time but unacquainted with the victims or suspect and not the intended targets of the attack, officials have said. Authorities have not provided an update on their conditions.
Family members at the vigil were still struggling to come to terms with Carter's gruesome death.
"I’m trying to have closure to make sure it was really my son, because it’s been a week and a day since the last time I spoke (to) and saw my baby,” his mom, Donna Hill, told KTLA.
But Hill said she was touched to be at the vigil, surrounded by other people whose lives her son had touched.
“It means a lot," she said. "It shows how much my son was loved and liked.”
Carter is survived by an 8-year-old son, relatives said. Pollard was also raising a young daughter with his girlfriend.
“It’s just senseless," Lewis said. "Over what, a fight? Really, it’s not even that serious. Why would you do this?”
Demery is facing two counts of murder, two counts of attempted murder and arson of a structure. He is scheduled to be arraigned on May 17.