Prosecutors on Tuesday investigated the tangled ownership of the Happy Land social club to determine whether the landlords, including actress Kathleen Turner’s husband, share responsibility in the fiery deaths of 87 people.
The district attorney’s office also said a grand jury had begun hearing evidence against Julio Gonzalez, a 36-year-old Cuban emigre who reportedly confessed to setting the fire at the illegal discotheque early Sunday.
Gonzalez allegedly bought $1 worth of gasoline and ignited it in the doorway to the two-story unlicensed club after a fight with his ex-girlfriend, who worked there.
Police were providing protection to the ex-girlfriend, Lydia Feliciano, because of threats from family and friends of the fire victims.
The building housing the club was leased to Happy Land’s operator by Turner’s husband, Jay Weiss, who in turn had leased it from one of New York’s major real estate operators, Alex DiLorenzo III.
Edward McCarthy, a spokesman for the Bronx prosecutor’s office, said the issue of landlord responsibility was not clear. Prosecutors still had to determine if anyone beyond the club operator, Elias Colon, who died in the fire, knew the building had been served with notices of building code violations.
Weiss, through a statement by his lawyer, Roger Boyle, acknowledged that Little Peach Realty, a company he owns with Morris Jaffe, leased the building in 1985 from a DiLorenzo company, Clarendon Place Corp.
Two years later, Little Peach leased the club to Colon, but Boyle said that since last spring the company had been trying to evict Colon for not paying rent.