Woman Pleads Guilty to Manslaughter for 1993 Westlake Arson Fire That Killed 7 Children, 3 Adults

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The scene of the 1993 Westlake district apartment fire that left 10 dead. (Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

The scene of the 1993 Westlake district apartment fire that left 10 dead. (Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

A woman pled guilty to manslaughter Tuesday for an arson fire at a Westlake apartment building that killed ten people, including seven children, nearly a quarter century ago, officials said.

Johanna Lopez, who has been in police custody since 2011, pled guilty to two counts of voluntary manslaughter, just two weeks after another defendant in the case also pled guilty for their role in the 1993 arson, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced Tuesday.

Four people, including Lopez, 54, Joseph Monge, 44, and Ramiro Valerio, 46, allegedly set a fire at an apartment complex in the 300 block of South Burlington Avenue on May 3, 1993, because they were upset that the manager of the complex wanted to curb drug deals that were taking place on the property, according to prosecutors.

Ramiro Valerio, Joseph Monge and Johanna Lopez are shown on a poster displayed at an LAPD news conference on Feb. 6, 2017. (Credit: KTLA)
Ramiro Valerio, Joseph Monge and Johanna Lopez are shown on a poster displayed at an LAPD news conference on Feb. 6, 2017. (Credit: KTLA)

The apartment manager was moving furniture when a mattress that was in a hallway was set on fire, officials said.

The smoke from the flames spread through the complex, which was largely occupied by immigrants from Central America, and killed seven children and three women, two of whom were pregnant. Dozens of others were injured, officials said.

The blaze erupted so quickly that women were seen throwing babies out of the building’s windows in hope their children would survive, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Lopez was paying the 18th Street Gang for the right to distribute crack cocaine in the neighborhood and enlisted Monge and Valerio in a scheme to set the complex on fire, the Times reported.

Lopez is scheduled for sentencing on June 19 and faces 22 years in state prison, according to the DA’s office.

Monge, an 18th Street Gang member, pled guilty to one count of voluntary manslaughter and admitted a gang allegation on Feb. 7. He is scheduled for sentencing on June 19 and faces 11 years in state prison.

Valerio faces 12 counts of murder and the special circumstance allegations of multiple murders and murder in the commission of an arson, the DA’s office said. His pretrial hearing is scheduled for March 20 and he faces life in prison without the possibility of parole.

A fourth suspect, whose identity was never revealed, allegedly fled to Mexico, according to the Los Angeles Times.

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