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Two Teamsters To Be Tried For Murder In Dupont Plaza Fire

June 16, 1988

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) _ A judge ruled on Wednesday enough evidence existed to try two Teamsters members for murder in the deaths of 97 people in the December 1986 Dupont Plaza Hotel fire.

In a ruling issued after a two-week preliminary hearing, District Court Judge Hector Brull Cestero also found probable cause to try former union local vice president Manuel de Jesus Santiago Rios for perjury.

The trial was set for Aug. 8.

The three members of Teamsters Local 901 were arrested in February in connection with the fire. Three other union members have already confessed to setting the blaze and are serving long prison sentences.

The judge found evidence to try former union delegate Luis Muniz Marquez and former hotel maintenance worker Luis Elias Vega Rios for murder, arson and causing damage. Muniz Marquez will also be tried for perjury.

The star prosecution witness was Hector Escudero Aponte, a former hotel maintenance worker who confessed to setting the fire with a can of cooking fuel the afternoon of New Year’s Eve.

Escudero testified that union officials encouraged him to to start fires as a means of pressuring hotel management to agree to union contract demands.

Prosecutors presented about a dozen witnesses at the hearing.

The three men held over for trial on Wednesday had originally been charged with 97 counts of first degree murder and one count each of arson, conspiracy and causing damage. Santiago Rios and Muniz Marquez were also each charged with one count of perjury.

The fire broke when the beachfront hotel was packed with about 1,000 tourists and visitors.

Of the 97 people killed, 86 died in the casino. In addition, 140 people were injured.

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