A 24-year-old man was convicted Thursday of first-degree murder for setting a fire that killed five people in a vacant commercial building in the Westlake district where a group of transients were living almost 2 1/2 years ago.
Jurors deliberated about a day before finding Johnny Josue Sanchez, 23, guilty of the June 13, 2016, deaths of De Andre Mitchell, 34; Jerry Dean Clemons, 59; Mary Ann Davis, 44; Joseph Proenneke, 25; and Tierra Stansberry, 18.
The panel found true special circumstance allegations of multiple murders, murder during the commission of an arson and arson of an inhabited structure with the intent to kill, according to prosecutors.
He was also convicted of two counts of attempted murder involving two people who were rescued from the burning building.
Sanchez intentionally set the blaze because he had been involved in a dispute with another transient in the vacant building at 2411 W. Eighth St., near MacArthur Park, authorities said.
One man was initially declared dead as a result of the fire, which swept through the building where homeless people had been living. Cadaver dogs and their handlers discovered the bodies of four more people “huddled up” in the ruins of the two-story structure the next day, Los Angeles City Fire Department arson investigator Lance Jimenez testified at a hearing in March in which Sanchez was ordered to stand trial.
The arson investigator testified earlier this year that the fire had two areas of origin and that he was able to rule out that the blaze had been accidentally caused.
Sanchez was arrested by Los Angeles police the night of the fire and has remained jailed without bail.
Prosecutors opted not to seek the death penalty against Sanchez, who is facing life in prison without the possibility of parole. He is due back in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom Jan. 23 for sentencing.
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