A story for every victim

Rodrigo Gonzalez, 17

Rodrigo Gonzalez, a 17-year-old Latino, died April 25 in a massive fire that killed three people in a South El Monte tire shop at 1252 Santa Anita Avenue, according to the Los Angeles County coroner's office.

The fire at Cheque Tires also killed Destiny Monique Aguirre, 18, a Latina from Azusa, and Christopher Jimenez, 17, a Latino from El Monte, according to officials.

Hours earlier, friends had gathered to celebrate Jimenez's birthday at the tire shop, which was owned Gonzalez's father, Esequiel. 

“I don't have a business anymore, but that's nothing compared to my son,” Gonzalez said. “I just wish I had my son back.”

The fire was started by someone throwing a Molotov cocktail into the tire shop about 5:30 a.m., according to the authorities.

Los Angeles County sheriff's detectives used surveillance video to place a gold 2002 Nissan Altima at the scene, and then tracked that vehicle to Robert Fuentes, a 19-year-old Latino from Baldwin Park. Fuentes was arrested on suspicion of murder April 26.

Fuentes was charged two days later with three counts of murder with the special circumstance of committing multiple murders. He is also charged with one count of arson causing great bodily injury and one count of using a destructive device and explosive to injure.

The special circumstances make Fuentes eligible for the death penalty, prosecutors said. Prosecutors will decide later whether to seek the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Investigators say they believe more than one person was involved in starting the fire, and are searching for additional suspects.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Sean Carney, with the arson and explosives unit, is prosecuting the case.

Anyone with information about the firebombing is asked to call the Sheriff's Department Homicide Bureau at (323) 890-5500. Those wishing to remain anonymous can call Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-8477.

-- Jeanette Marantos

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