A man who set fire to a Studio City music studio, killing two men and leaving a 15-year-old girl and a man in his 20s critically injured, pleaded no contest Wednesday to multiple charges and was sentenced to 50 years to life in prison.
Efrem Zimbalist Demery Jr., 31, of Los Angeles, pleaded no contest to two counts of murder and one count of arson of a structure, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
“Although the life sentence in this case does not bring back the victims, it does hold the defendant accountable for his deadly actions,” District Attorney George Gascón said in a statement. “My deepest sympathies go out to the families, whose lives were forever altered by this atrocious crime.”
After the April 14, 2018, fire, police said Demery knew and had been together with the deceased victims — DeVaughn Cemar Carter, 28, and Michael Pollard Jr., 30, both of Los Angeles — and that a dispute erupted with one or both of them.
Demery then went across the street from Top Notch Recordings at 3779 N. Cahuenga Blvd., bought gas at a Chevron station and returned to torch the interior of the building before fleeing out a rear door, police said.
The fire was reported shortly before 7 a.m., and took crews about a half-hour to douse.
A K-9 on loan to the LAFD’s Arson/Counter-Terrorism Section from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives detected an accelerant, and forensic evidence, surveillance video and witness statements caused investigators to zero in on Demery, police said.
Policle said Demery poured fuel in a hallway and set it ablaze, adding that Carter and Pollard were in one room and the two injured victims were in separate areas of the studio at the time.
Responding firefighters found all four victims down inside the building.
Carter and Pollard were pronounced dead at the scene and the two injured victims were hospitalized with “significant burns,” police said.
Demery was arrested that night in the area of 135th Street and Avalon Boulevard in the Willowbrook area when a California Highway Patrol officer stopped him for a traffic violation.