Arson investigators
Los Angeles fire and police officials discuss the arson investigation with media following the deadly 2016 blaze. Courtesy LAPD

A man was ordered Tuesday to stand trial for allegedly setting a June 2016 fire that killed five people in a vacant commercial building in the Westlake district where a group of transients were living.

Superior Court Judge Craig Richman found sufficient evidence to allow the case against Johnny Josue Sanchez, 23, to proceed to trial.

Sanchez is charged with five counts of murder for the June 13, 2016, deaths of De Andre Mitchell, Jerry Dean Clemons, Mary Ann Davis, Joseph Proenneke and Tierra Stansberry, along with two counts of attempted murder involving two people who were rescued from the burning building at 2411 W. Eighth St., near MacArthur Park.

The murder charges include the special circumstance allegations of multiple murders and murder during the commission of an arson. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office has yet to decide whether to seek the death penalty against Sanchez, who was arrested the night of the fire.

Authorities allege that Sanchez intentionally set the blaze because he had been involved in a dispute with another transient in the vacant building.

One man was initially declared dead as a result of the fire, which swept through the building where homeless people had been living. The following day, cadaver dogs and their handlers discovered the bodies of four more people “huddled up” in the ruins of the two-story structure, Los Angeles City Fire Department arson investigator Lance Jimenez told the judge.

Jimenez testified that the fire had two areas of origin, telling the judge that he was able to rule out that the blaze had been accidentally caused.

Sanchez — who remains jailed without bail — is due back at the downtown Los Angeles courthouse April 3 for arraignment.

–City News Service

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