Johanna Lopez and Joseph Monge appeared before Judge Curtis B. Rappe in Los Angeles Superior Court on murder charges related to an arson attack that killed 10 and injured more than 40.
Lopez was arrested in 2011 and pleaded guilty to manslaughter in 2020. Monge was arrested in 2017 along with his accomplice Ramiro Valerio on conspiracy to murder. According to the Los Angeles Attorney’s Office, Monge pleaded guilty to one count of voluntary manslaughter in 2020 and admitted his gang affiliation.
The hearing was postponed to Aug. 5 to give Lopez and Monge’s attorneys ample time to file reduced-sentence papers.
Johanna Lopez appeared in court today for the first time in years after she was found in connection with the 1993 Los Angeles apartment fire that killed 10 people
Joseph Monge appeared Friday in connection with the Los Angeles fire
Residents of the building threw children out of windows hoping they would get caught. The man in the photo above saw a dead child in front of the building
The fire killed 10 tenants – including two pregnant women. About 40 people were injured and 100 others displaced
Local residents tried to jump out of the window to save their lives. A medical technician is seen in the photo next to the body of a pregnant woman who were among the 10 who died
A mattress in the hallway of the complex was set on fire and quickly spread. The case went unsolved for years until police arrested Lopez as a suspect
Monge was allegedly recruited by Lopez to commit the act
Valerio was found guilty of 12 counts of murder last month and sentenced to life in prison without parole – although he insisted he did not set the fire.
Meanwhile, another unidentified person is believed to have been responsible for the fire, but has fled to Mexico, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The street on which the apartment complex is located at 330 S. Burlington Ave. was home to drug dealers and street gangs who allegedly terrorized residents.
Officials said in 2017 that Lopez paid a street gang for the right to distribute cocaine in the area and plotted with Monge and Valerio to set the building on fire. The Los Angeles Times reported.
Lopez testified that she gave Valerio thousands of dollars a week for allowing her to line the street with drug dealers. At the time of the fire, Valerio was earning $25,000.
Arrests of the suspects were delayed until years later because residents of the building refused to give police a statement about the fire for fear of local gang members. Some agreed to come forward and testify in 2017, more than 20 years after the fire.
Isabela Diego (pictured above) held her son in her arms after throwing her two children out the window
The apartment building remains standing and can be seen in the June 2022 photo
The May 3, 1993 fire is believed to have been started by the suspects after the housing manager wanted to stop drug trafficking in the building. Lopez said Romero and Valerio said they would take care of it.
The housing manager was moving into a second floor apartment when a mattress in the hallway caught fire.
The flames spread quickly as immigrants from El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico tried to escape death by jumping out of windows and climbing to higher floors with sheets tied together.
Children were dropped from the second and third floors in the hope that they would be trapped below. Children between the ages of 15 months and 11 years died.
After the fatal fire, two men were charged in connection with the fire, but the case was dropped due to lack of evidence.
The 10 people killed in the fire included Olga Leon, 24, and her three children, Alejandrina Roblero, 29, and her three children, Rosalia Ruiz, 21, and Lancy Mateo, 1.
Leon and Ruiz were pregnant at the time of her death.
The hearing was postponed to Aug. 5 to give Lopez and Monge’s attorneys ample time to file reduced-sentence papers
Ramiro Valerio (left) and Joesph Monge (right) were arrested in 2017 in connection with the 1993 fire. Homeowners at the time refused to tell police what they knew, fearing retaliation from local gangs
Johanna Lopez, 51, recruited Valerio and Monge to help set fire to the complex after the housing manager tried to shut down drug trafficking in the area
According to The Times, Valerio was reportedly an FBI informant after the fire. He denied any connection to the fire, but his reports led to the arrest of Columbia Lol Cycos boss Francisco “Puppet” Martinez.
Gang members and drug dealers eventually came forward and admitted that Valerio had talked about starting a fire in the apartment as a message to the manager. He was later arrested at work in Santa Clarita in 2017.