A transient man convicted of intentionally setting a fire that killed five people in a vacant Westlake district commercial building where a group of other transients were living was sentenced Friday to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Johnny Josue Sanchez, now 25, was convicted a year ago of first-degree murder for 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 and murder during the commission of an arson, according to prosecutors.
He was also convicted of two counts of attempted murder involving two people who were rescued from the burning building.
Sanchez — who was described as a transient — 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 March 2018 hearing 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 since then.
Prosecutors opted not to seek the death penalty against him.