Four men pleaded not guilty Thursday to murder and arson charges stemming from a Molotov cocktail attack that killed three people at a South El Monte tire shop in April.
Roberto Fuentes and Mario Godina Jr., both 19, and Estevan Castillo and German Monreal, both 20, are charged with three felony counts of murder and one felony count each of arson causing great bodily injury and use of a destructive device and explosive to injure/destroy.
The murder charge includes the special circumstance allegation of multiple murders.
Prosecutors will decide later whether to seek a death sentence against any of the four defendants.
A Molotov cocktail was thrown into Cheque Tires, at 1252 Santa Anita Ave., at about 5:30 a.m. April 25, killing Destiny Aguirre, 18, of Azusa, Rodrigo Gonzalez, 17, of La Puente, and Christopher Jimenez, 17, of El Monte. Arriving firefighters found one of the victims trying to get out of the burning building, but he could not be saved. A firefighter was treated at a hospital for second-degree burns suffered while trying to rescue the teen and battle the blaze, which took about an hour to extinguish. The other two victims’ bodies were subsequently found inside the business. Friends said Jimenez had celebrated his birthday a day early with a party at the tire shop. He would have turned 18 on April 26. Sheriff’s Lt. Victor Lewandowski said Fuentes was at the tire shop at some point before the attack, but it was unclear if he had attended the birthday party. Detectives used video surveillance footage to identify the suspect vehicle, which led them to Fuentes, according to a sheriff’s spokeswoman.
Fuentes was arrested the day after the fire.
Godina, Castillo and Monreal were taken into custody in Mexico last month and flown back to Los Angeles.
All four are being held without bail.
They are scheduled to make their next court appearance Sept. 9, when a date is scheduled to be set for a hearing to determine if there is enough evidence to require them to stand trial.