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Testimony in Alpine fire manslaughter case on hold

Updated March 29, 2023 - 10:08 am

The manslaughter case against the owner of the Alpine Motel Apartments is on pause for a month, as more testimony is expected to continue in April.

Testimony continued on Tuesday during the case’s preliminary hearing, which began in 2020 but was delayed for nearly two years after an investigator working for the defense team refused to testify. At the end of the preliminary hearing, Justice of the Peace Ann Zimmerman is expected to determine if there is enough evidence for Adolfo Orozco, the building’s former owner, and property manager Malinda Mier to stand trial.

The fire on Dec. 21, 2019, left six dead, 13 injured and nearly 50 people without shelter. When the blaze broke out, the building’s fire alarms didn’t work and there was no functioning sprinkler system, prosecutors have said.

On Tuesday, defense attorneys questioned John Sylva, the owner of a pest control company who used to do work at the Alpine. Sylva said that from his experience, tenants did not cooperate with him while he worked at the building and that he believed Orozco did an average job keeping up with maintenance and pest control issues at the Alpine.

“I think we established clearly today that the condition of that place is no different from all the other ones that are similarly situated in the downtown area,” Dominic Gentile, Orozco’s defense attorney, said after the hearing.

When Sylva was questioned by Chief Deputy District Attorney John Giordani, he said he stopped doing jobs at the Alpine about 10 years ago, but he wasn’t sure of the exact year.

The defendants face six felony counts of involuntary manslaughter, along with charges of disregarding the safety of a person resulting in death or substantial bodily harm and a gross misdemeanor count of destroying or concealing evidence.

Orozco also faces charges of attempting to dissuade someone from testifying and attempting to prevent a person from reporting a crime.

The preliminary hearing is expected to continue on April 24 with more testimony, and defense attorneys said they are working on serving subpoenas to additional witnesses who have been difficult to locate.

Contact Katelyn Newberg at knewberg@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0240. Follow @k_newberg on Twitter.

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