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Four men plead not guilty in deadly South El Monte firebombing

Four men plead not guilty in deadly South El Monte firebombing
Photos of the three slain youths are displayed on a fence outside the South El Monte tire shop where the killings occurred. (Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times)

Four men accused of killing three teens in a firebombing at a South El Monte tire shop pleaded not guilty Thursday to several charges.

German Monrreal, 19, Mario Godina, 19, Estevan Castillo, 20, and Roberto Fuentes, 20, are charged with three counts of murder, one count of arson causing great bodily injury and one count of using a destructive device and explosive with the intent to injure a person and destroy property.

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If convicted, they could all receive the death penalty.

Detectives allege the four men threw Molotov cocktails at the Cheque Tire Shop in April, setting it ablaze and killing Destiny Aguirre, 18, Carlos Jimenez, 17, and Rodrigo Gonzalez, 17.

A birthday party had taken place at the business hours before the fire, investigators said.

At the party, some members of the El Monte Flores gang hassled the four suspects, and one of them had his gold chain stolen by the gang members, according to two sources familiar with the investigation.

After the party finished, Gonzalez, Jimenez and Aguirre went to sleep inside the shop. Just before 5:30 a.m., police say, Monrreal, Godina, Castillo and Fuentes set the shop on fire.

"They returned for vengeance for a perceived slight," said Deputy Dist. Atty. Sean Carney. "These guys were pissed off and retaliated, and it wasn't pretty."

Three of the four suspects fled to Mexico, where they were captured in July, authorities said.

The suspects are scheduled to return to court Sept. 9 to set a preliminary hearing date.

For more California news, follow @brittny_mejia.

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