Updated August 20, 2020 - 6:11 pm
The property manager for the site of the deadliest residential fire in Las Vegas was more than an hour late for the second day of a preliminary hearing in a manslaughter case stemming from the fire, during which prosecutors laid out a slew of code violations found at the Alpine Motel Apartments.
Attorney Kristina Wildeveld told Justice of the Peace Ann Zimmerman on Thursday that her client, Malinda Mier, has been “very emotional” since sitting through three hours of graphic testimony on Tuesday, which marked day one of the preliminary hearing.
On Tuesday, Mier wept as she left the courtroom and while a Las Vegas police officer recalled helping move the body of a man who died in the Dec. 21 fire at the Alpine, an aging three-story building constructed in 1972 in downtown Las Vegas. She returned to court Thursday with puffy, red eyes.
Mier and her co-defendant, Alpine owner Adolfo Orozco, are out of custody after posting bail. They are charged with six counts 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.
The pre-dawn fire left six people dead, 13 more injured and dozens displaced the week before Christmas. When firefighters arrived, authorities have said, they found residents jumping and dangling from windows on the second and third floors.
Day Two of the preliminary hearing was focused on the testimony of Scott Thompson, a Las Vegas fire inspector who had prepared a fire code violation report for the multiagency investigation into the blaze. After the fire, Thompson conducted walk-throughs of the building with Metro crime scene analysts who also had been called to testify in the case Tuesday and earlier Thursday afternoon.
“There was a lot of code violations found,” Thompson recalled.
The violations, according to Thompson, included a bolted rear exit door, a fire alarm control panel that appeared to have been silenced, dimly lit hallways, no emergency lights in the stairwells, missing or improperly installed smoke alarms, and doors throughout the building that did not properly close.
“Why is it important that doors leading to a corridor are self-closing. Why would that matter?” prosecutor Leah Beverly asked Thompson.
“Because if you have a fire in one unit, and the door is not closed, the fire can spread to the corridor and then people cannot exit,” he said.
In addition to the violations Thompson documented after the fire, documents obtained by the Las Vegas Review-Journal from city officials previously revealed that fire code violations at the Alpine date to at least 2006. According to the documents, the property also had not been inspected by the Las Vegas Fire Department for nearly three years, between April 2013 and March 2016.
Orozco also faces four counts of preventing or dissuading a witness or victim from reporting a crime with the use of a deadly weapon.
Prosecutors have said that he offered the apartment’s live-in building manager and his fiancee money to leave town after the fire, and tried to persuade them not to talk to detectives about the fire “by brandishing a modified AK-47 style assault rifle.”
Testimony will continue on Monday afternoon. At the conclusion of the hearing, which as of Thursday was expected to continue into September, Zimmerman will decide whether there is enough evidence for Orozco and Mier to stand trial.