Owners face charges in deadly Alpine Motel fire


Steve Marcus

City of Las Vegas firefighters head into the Alpine Motel Apartments after a fatal early morning fire in downtown Las Vegas Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019. Six people died and 13 injured after a fire in the three-story apartment complex, authorities said.

Published Thu, Jul 30, 2020 (2:41 p.m.)

Updated Thu, Jul 30, 2020 (6:02 p.m.)

The Clark County District Attorney’s Office issued arrest warrants today for the owners of a downtown Las Vegas apartment building where a fire in December killed six tenants.

Adolfo Orozco-Garcia and Malinda Mier, owners of the Alpine Motel, face six counts of of involuntary manslaughter and 15 counts of performance of an act or neglect of duty in disregard of safety resulting in substantial bodily harm or death, prosecutors said.

Orozco-Garcia also faces four counts of using a deadly weapon to prevent or dissuade a witness or victim from reporting a crime, prosecutors said. He is accused of brandishing a rifle and telling at least one witness not to cooperate with the investigation, offering money to stay quiet and skip town, according to court documents.

Information about the pair's whereabouts or if they have been in contact with authorities wasn’t immediately available.

District Attorney Steve Wolfson unveiled the criminal charges more than seven months after the blaze broke out in the dilapidated apartment complex, which killed six tenants and injured another 13, marking the deadliest residential fire in Las Vegas history. 

“If these defendants had responsibly maintained the property, these six victims would be alive today,” Wolfson said in a statement. “Their intentional disregard for the proper maintenance of fire alarms, fire exits and the heating system for the units directly contributed to the tragedy we saw on Dec. 21, 2019.

“They had a responsibility to provide a safe environment for these people, and they failed to do that,” Wolfson said.

The fire, which started in the stove of a first-floor room, sent smoke billowing throughout the three-story building, trapping residents who couldn’t flee through an exit door that was bolted shut.

The case was filed at Las Vegas Justice Court on Wednesday, logs show.

The smoke overcame the six victims and forced residents on an upper floor to escape through the windows, officials said.

Wolfson’s office said investigators uncovered inoperable exits and fire doors, non-working fire alarms and lack of a heating system in the motel, causing tenants to use stoves to stay warm.

The victims were Henry Lawrence Pinc, 70; Tracy Ann Cihal, 57; Francis Lombardo Jr., 72; Cynthia Mikell, 61; Donald Keith Bennett, 63; and Kerry Baclaan, 46. All were Las Vegas residents.

The 41-unit building they lived in, which sits on 0.16 acres of land in downtown Las Vegas, was built in 1972, according to Clark County property records. The 56 surviving residents were displaced.

Its registered owner was Las Vegas Dragon Hotel, a domestic limited-liability company registered to Orozco-Garcia, according to Nevada records. Three other motel apartments in the valley are registered to the same company.

Two cats and one dog also died in the fire. 

Tim Szymanski, Las Vegas Fire & Rescue's spokesman, tried to describe the fire.

"You cannot imagine how unbearable conditions are inside of a building when it catches fire,” he told reporters, noting that the smoke quickly chokes out the air and becomes poison. “It’s like working underneath water, someone’s holding you at the bottom of a swimming pool and not letting you out,” he said.

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