LOS ANGELES — Johnny Josue Sanchez, 21, the homeless man who allegedly set a fire that took the lives of five people in a Westlake apartment complex on June 13, entered a “not guilty” plea during a Tuesday morning hearing at the Los Angeles Superior Court.
Judge Sergio Tapia, who is overseeing the case, set the third preliminary hearing for October 13 at 8:30 a.m.
“I think the administration and the system let us down,” Chris Stansberry, the father of victim Tierra Stansberry, 18, told Breitbart News. “All these victims would still be here if the country had done their job and deported [illegal aliens] like they should have.”
He added, “I’m just angered with all these illegals in the country. Before my daughter’s murder I really didn’t know it was that bad. And then you see it all over the place.” He added, “I don’t think anyone should be here unless they’re legal.”
Stansberry, 44, is a small business owner in Ottumwa, Iowa. He said Tierra and her boyfriend Joseph Proennke (Williams), 24, had just arrived in Los Angeles to meet with his biological mother Mary Ann Davis, 44. Proennke, Davis, her partner Jerry Clemons, 59, and one unidentified person also perished in the fire.
The building where the fire took place is located at 2411 West 8th Street in Los Angeles. A transient said several of the homeless people who used to sleep in the now boarded-up complex have moved to a partially abandoned building next door.
“She just got out of high school,” Stansberry said of Tierra. “She was the type of girl who would have done anything for anyone. She was aways laughing, smiling. When she wasn’t around, she’d call almost every other day to talk to her sister when I had her. She was really good to be around.”
Breitbart News previously reported that Sanchez, who is originally from Honduras, had allegedly “started the fire to avenge a beating he took in a dispute over occupying a room” in the building, which is used by homeless people.
Judge Sanchez said since this was a “special circumstance” case, Sanchez did not receive bail, which means he will be held behind bars until the next court date.
“Sadly, the number of victims in this case is unusual but having special circumstance murders involving arson fires, unfortunately, is not unusual,” District Attorney Sean Carney, who is prosecuting Sanchez, told Breitbart News. Both Carney and Deputy District Attorney Joy Roberts said Sanchez is potentially facing the death penalty if he is found guilty by the court.
Propositions 62 and 66 will be placed on the November ballot, asking voters to revoke or reform the death penalty, respectively. Carney told Breitbart News that “we don’t know how that will affect the landscape.”
He explained that if Sanchez is convicted of the murders, he will either face the death penalty or life without parole. As for whether it makes a difference that Sanchez is in the United States illegally, Carney said: “Every defendant is treated the same whether they are a citizen or not.”
Regarding deportation, Carney said, “Normally, they are not deported,” adding that such a decision is outside the scope of this particular court, and would be handled by immigration authorities. However, he noted, “If they are convicted and sentenced, normally they compete the sentence before they are deported.”
Sanchez requested the media not take his pictures or videos during Tuesday’s hearing, a request that was granted by Judge Tapia.
Robin Hvidston of the Remembrance Project, which honors victims of murders by illegal aliens, was also present in court, along with several other members of the group. She told Breitbart News that she was disappointed with Judge Tapia’s decision to honor Sanchez’s request not to be taped by the media. “I will just say this much. Five Americans don’t have the right to be photographed because they no longer exist. And I don’t think it’s fair that the judge ruled that media cannot photograph or film the perpetrator. I think that society, the public has a right to see what is going forward in this courtroom.”
The most disturbing issue is that if our laws had been enforced, this wouldn’t have happened. He was in custody on June 8 for drug possession. And five days later, on June 13, he was released and committed this heinous act. So it’s a failure of our government, on many levels, and here we have the system protecting his identity. Where’s the protection for the five Americans permanently separated from their families by no fault of their own?
Follow Adelle Nazarian on Twitter @AdelleNaz