A 49-year-old Palmdale man who was convicted of the murders of 10 people, including two pregnant women who died nearly three decades ago in an arson fire at an apartment building in Los Angeles, was sentenced Friday, Jan. 6, to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Ramiro Alberto Valerio — whom prosecutors contended was a gang leader who went by the name of “Greedy” — was found guilty last year of 10 counts of first-degree murder and two counts of first-degree murder of a human fetus in connection with the May 3, 1993, blaze at a 69-unit complex in the Westlake area of Los Angeles.
Jurors also found true the special-circumstance allegations of multiple murders and murder during arson of an inhabited structure, along with aggravating factors including one alleging that the victims were particularly vulnerable.
“In my heart, God knows I’m innocent,” Valerio said, shortly before being sentenced in the downtown Los Angeles courtroom. Deputy District Attorney Victor Avila said Valerio was involved in the planning of the fire, but remained outside the apartment building to act as a lookout. The prosecutor told jurors during the trial that Valerio didn’t have to be the one who went in and lit the match. The man suspected of starting the fire inside the apartment building is suspected of being in Mexico and is still being sought by authorities. Two other people have been released from jail after being sentenced to time already served behind bars in connection with the case.
Joseph Monge, whom prosecutors said served as a lookout, pleaded no contest to one count of voluntary manslaughter and admitted a gang allegation. The 47-year-old man was sentenced last October to 11 years in state prison and released later that day with credit for time already served. Johanna Lopez — who was described in court by a prosecutor as a “major drug dealer” who was present at meetings where the possibility of setting a fire was discussed — pleaded guilty to three counts of voluntary manslaughter. Lopez, 57, was given credit last October for time she has already served behind bars since her January 2011 arrest by Los Angeles police, but was warned that she was facing deportation from the country because U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement had issued a hold on her.
Authorities said in 2017 that they believed the fire was set in retaliation for a building manager’s efforts to crack down on drug-dealing at the apartment complex. Those who died as a result of smoke inhalation from the fire were: Olga Leon, 24, and Rosalia Ruiz, 21, who were both pregnant; 1-year-old Lancy Mateo, 3-year-old Jose Camargo, 4-year-old Jesus Camargo, 6-year-old William Verdugo, 7-year-old Rosia Camargo, 8-year-old Yadira Verdugo, 10-year-old Leyver Verdugo and 29-year-old Alejandrina Roblero. The blaze left more than 40 others injured and more than 100 residents displaced.
In his closing argument in Valerio’s trial, Avila called it a “horrific crime,” and said it was “the result of the greed not only of this defendant, but his gang” involving a “money-making enterprise that cannot be jeopardized.”
“These victims had the misfortune to live in the area controlled by this defendant’s gang,” the prosecutor said. “They control these areas because they instill fear in these people.
“This was not an accidental fire,” Avila added, noting that the blaze was set in front of the manager’s apartment and that the manager was the target but didn’t die.
Valerio’s attorney, James Hallett, questioned the credibility of four of the prosecution’s most important witnesses, including Lopez. The defense attorney contended that the witnesses’ years-long delay in reporting their allegations against Valerio was “enough reason to doubt them.” Jurors had to decide whether the government’s case overcame the presumption of innocence for Valerio and established sufficient, reliable evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Valerio specifically directed the commission of the arson, the defense attorney told the panel.
“If you hate Ramiro because he was involved in drug-dealing and all that involves … that’s not enough,” Hallett said. “The issue here is whether or not he directed the lighting of this fire. … We don’t have any reliable evidence.”
At an October 2017 hearing in which Valerio, Lopez and Monge were ordered to stand trial, Los Angeles County Deputy Medical Examiner Christopher Rogers testified that “the main problem with smoke is it has a lot of carbon monoxide.” He noted that “you would need only a few breaths to die.”
Valerio has remained behind bars since his February 2017 arrest by detectives from the Los Angeles Police Department’s Robbery-Homicide Division.
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16 comments for "Palmdale man sentenced to life in prison for 1993 fire that killed 10 in Los Angeles"
I was there and saw the whole thing. Ramiro Alberto Valerio is guilty. He threatened to kill us if we said anything. I’m GLAD he will DIE in prison.
Union Drive says
He knew about it. He was making moves. As a kid on one took him seriously. Nor his brother Bones. When he rose up it got to his head
[Removed] more like it. Incredible what took so fricken long and why were they not given the death penalty! Oh I forgot we live in CA where criminals have more rights than their victims…
Tommy Gong says
You can’t assume. He didn’t Start the fire the article stated that the Firestarter is in Mexico. This person is innocent He was guilty because of gang association.
People can change and leave the past behind
You’re either a fool or you are related this happened right down the street from my house he should have got the death penalty he was a little b**** then he’s a little bit smell he’ll get his
Moses Ramos says
Ramiro is Innocent . He was the scapegoat. All on assumptions. This was all to get Monje wife murderer, 8 years . And drug dealing lady out.
Ruth N Hernandez says
I totally agree , I know him and he’s a good man people can change and be a better person.
Hell yes! Finally someone states the obviously. The really sad thing is this guy was only 19 when he did this, but now he’s 50. He was able to live a big chunk of his life – free, because of getting away with it for 30 yrs. It really doesnt seem to matter now that he’s 50. Its completely not right how this turned out. Think of all those babies that never even got a chance to live because of him. I really hope he’s killed in an extreme horrible way in prison…
Moses Ramos says
Thats mean for not actual facts but assumptions.
MAYBE HE WAS ALSO UPSET BECAUSE HE HEARD THAT LOTS OF THE OTHER GANGSTERS…
THOUGHT HE LOOKED LIKE A GOOFBALL…
That’s definitely it. Don’t drop the soap puto
Just to make it clear, my comment (Julie) was a reply to the comment made by Justice4All…
I got arrested for this case in Nov 98 and released sep 99 because insufficient evidence. I rescued 3 kids from the balconies but because the manager pin pointed me on the scene I was a suspect since day one. At 16 I passed a lie detector and still areested me. On now 26th L.A Times wrote that I had confessed witch it was b.s. I believe Valerio didn’t do it or gave order, but we all know Greedy gave many other orders to have people taken out. So karma got to this dude. The supposedly igniter passed away in a mexican prison in 2013 Termite(juan romero) another individual that gave many order on others. So yes karma lives in this world. The real responsible one lives in El Salvador but they never cared for the truth. Peace.
I grew up there too.. Are you referring to Tiny??
The street were under direction of Eme just like The Maxim el monte murders . They never arrested The Top people Gave orders. FBI TELLS WHO WERE PUPPET MASTERS. YET TURN BLIND EYE.
No not Tiny. He’s Honduran and just crossed to the U.S now that the case is closed