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Charges in Hollywood Hotel Fire

November 21, 2001

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ The owner of a Hollywood residential hotel and his stepfather were arrested Wednesday and charged with capital murder and arson for a fire that killed two people last summer.

Juan Ortiz, 44, and his stepfather, Joseph Lewellen, 67, were arrested at their home, the district attorney’s office said.

The Aug. 16 blaze at the Palomar Hotel killed Ortiz’s brother and a woman who fell from a smoky window after lowering her two children to firefighters on a ladder. Four firefighters were among those injured.

Investigators said up to 40 gallons of a gasoline had been poured through the building.

County prosecutors said they will decide later whether to seek the death penalty.

The four-story building on Santa Monica Boulevard was built in 1925. Ortiz pleaded no contest last year to 10 building and safety code violations. He was fined, given probation and ordered to complete fire safety repairs by last November.

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