Jury convicts suspect in fatal Bensonhurst fire
A 31-year-old man was convicted of setting that turned his Bensonhurst apartment house into an inferno, killing five people, Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes announced.
The jury, which began deliberating on March 12, took less than an hour to find Daniel Ignacio guilty of five counts of second degree murder, nine counts of second degree arson, one count of fourth degree arson, and one count of first degree assault.
Ignacio will be sentenced by New York State Supreme Court Justice Neil Firetog on April 14. He faces a sentence of 25 years to life in prison.
On January 30, 2010, Ignacio set fire to a baby carriage in the vestibule of the apartment building at 2033 86th Street, where he lived on the second floor. He used a cigarette lighter to ignite a wet roll of toilet paper, which he tossed into the baby carriage. He then went upstairs to his apartment. Shortly after, the building went up in flames, killing five of his neighbors.
Ignacio, an immigrant from Guatemala, argued that he was intoxicated at the time and could not possibly have started the fire intentionally. The jury apparently didn’t buy his explanation.
The New York Daily News reported that the trial included the testimony of Miguel Chan, whose wife Luisa died in the fire. In his emotional testimony, Santos recounted how he had to toss two of their children, a two-year-old boy and a three-month-old daughter, out the window and into the arms of people sanding on the sidewalk below, to save their lives. His wife couldn’t make it out of the building, he testified.
Four other residents of the building were also killed in the fire. The victims all died of burns and smoke inhalation.
The fatal fire exposed the often precarious living conditions of undocumented immigrants in Bensonhurst. The New York City Department of Buildings (DOB) sent inspectors into the three-story 86th Street apartment house in the wake of the blaze and found illegal subdivisions within the building, according to officials, who said apartments were subdivided into separate units. There were approximately 20 people living in two single-family apartments – one on the second floor and another on the third floor – according to officials. The building’s first floor was occupied by a Japanese restaurant. The apartment building is located in the 86th Street shopping area in Bensonhurst.
Inspectors also found that the building did not have the proper number of fire exits.
The landlords of the building are also charged in the fire, Hynes said. Vasilios Gerazounis, 69, and his son, Argyrios Gerazounis, 38, are charged with second degree manslaughter, first degree criminally negligent homicide, first degree perjury, third degree perjury, first degree reckless endangerment, and first degree assault.
Their case is awaiting trial. The next court date is March 22. They could face up to 25 years in prison if convicted.
The case against Daniel Ignacio was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Howard Jackson, counsel to the Homicide Bureau. Kenneth Taub is chief of the Homicide Bureau.
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