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Alpine apartment manager, girlfriend narrowly escaped deadly fire

An Alpine Motel Apartments property manager and his live-in girlfriend narrowly escaped a fire that killed six people, she testified Tuesday.

Christina Farinella, who lived in a third-floor unit of the downtown building with Jason Casteel, who helped managed the apartments, described screaming for help as firefighters sent a ladder to her window.

Casteel briefly passed out as smoke billowed through the apartments, she said during a preliminary hearing for landlord Adolfo Orozco and co-defendant Malinda Mier. Both Orozco and Mier face involuntary manslaughter and other felony charges.

“Help, help. Save us, save us,” she said she remembered yelling the morning of the Dec. 21 fire. “Please save my dog. Please save Jason.”

She also detailed for Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Ann Zimmerman conditions in the couple’s apartment before the fire, which included black mold, broken tiles, a backed-up sink, an overflowing toilet, bed bugs, roaches and a dysfunctional smoke detector.

Attorneys for Orozco and Mier did not cross-examine Farinella.

Mier was jailed late last week after authorities said she violated a condition of her bail, and remained shackled for Tuesday’s testimony. But Zimmerman ordered her released on her original $10,000 bail after the hearing.

Orozco remains free on $50,000 bail.

Along with the fatalities, the pre-dawn fire at 213 N. Ninth St., an aging 41-unit building constructed in 1972 in downtown Las Vegas, left 13 more injured and dozens displaced the week before Christmas.

Orozco and Mier, who said she ran his property management company, were charged on July 30 with manslaughter — one count each for the six victims — and 15 counts of performance of an act or neglect of duty in disregard of safety resulting in substantial bodily harm or death.

Documents obtained by the Las Vegas Review-Journal from city officials in the weeks after the fire revealed that the Alpine had not been inspected by the Las Vegas Fire Department for nearly three years, between April 2013 and March 2016.

Since mid-August, Zimmerman has heard testimony from fire inspectors, residents of the apartment building and others, who detailed their encounters with Orozco and Mier.

At the conclusion of testimony, which could extend through the month, Zimmerman is expected to decide whether prosecutors have enough evidence for Mier and Orozco to stand trial.

Contact David Ferrara at dferrara@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-1039. Follow @randompoker on Twitter.

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