A Manhattan Beach teen-ager charged with murder and arson in connection with the May 23 fire deaths of three Redondo Beach residents pleaded not guilty Monday at his arraignment in Torrance Superior Court.
Ryan William Rickert, 18, a food server at the Dagwood Deli in Manhattan Beach, was charged with three counts of murder and one count of arson. He was being held at County Jail pending a bail hearing scheduled today.
No charges were filed against Bradey Kenneth Kruse, 19, of Hermosa Beach, who was arrested along with Rickert, because of insufficient evidence, according to a spokesman for the district attorney's office.
The fire, which was reported at 2:30 a.m. May 23, consumed the front apartment of a four-unit building at 1215 Beryl St. in Redondo Beach. Three tenants in the apartment, which did not have smoke alarms as required by a state law that took effect Jan. 1, were killed, and two others escaped.
Police identified the victims as David William Weissman, 22, captain of a charter boat service; Lana McLeod, also known as Lana Scudder, 21, a Red Onion restaurant employee, and James Timothy Wooden, 25, an electrical engineer.
Police said the fire was set in the dining area of the apartment. Rickert was on good terms with the five tenants, and the motive for arson is not known, Redondo Beach Police Lt. Jeffrey Cameron said. It is possible that the person who started the fire was "just messing around," he said.
Roger Coloma, one of the surviving tenants, said that Rickert and Kruse showed up about 1:30 a.m. at the apartment, where there had been a party earlier in the evening.
The two tried unsuccessfully to get the sleeping apartment occupants to revive the party, Coloma said.
A preliminary hearing is scheduled June 23.