3 men found hiding in Mexico arrested in deadly South El Monte tire shop fire

A memorial was set up for three young victims — two male and one female — who were found dead in a tire shop after an April firebombing in South El Monte.

A memorial was set up for three young victims — two male and one female — who were found dead in a tire shop after an April firebombing in South El Monte.

(Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times)

Three men found hiding in Mexico were charged Monday in the deaths of three teens who were killed when flames ignited by a Molotov cocktail swept through a South El Monte tire shop this year.

Suspects German Monrreal, 19; Mario Godina, 19; and Estevan Castillo, 20, were flown from Mexico to Los Angeles on Sunday and are being held without bail, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

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Detectives investigating the teens’ deaths got a tip that Monrreal, Godina and Castillo were hiding out in Mexico, sheriff’s officials said. With the help of the U.S. Marshal’s Southwest Regional Fugitive Task Force and Mexican state police, detectives found the three men Saturday at a ranch and a home in Guadalajara, said sheriff’s spokeswoman Nicole Nishida. They were immediately taken into custody.

Castillo, Godina and Monrreal had been identified as suspects early in the investigation. A $30,000 reward was offered for information leading to their arrests and conviction.

Nishida said the reward drew a tip and “played a significant role” in the men’s arrests.

On Monday, the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office charged the men with throwing a Molotov cocktail into the tire shop. They are charged with three counts of murder and one count each of arson, causing great bodily harm and use of an explosive to injure.

The suspects’ arrests come three months after Destiny Aguirre, 18; Carlos “Christopher” Jimenez, 17; and Rodrigo Gonzalez, 17, were killed April 25 during a birthday celebration at Cheque Tires in the 1200 block of Santa Anita Avenue in South El Monte.

The next day, detectives made their first arrest in the deadly fire.

Using surveillance video of the alleged getaway vehicle at the scene, homicide detectives were able to identify Castillo, Godina and Monrreal as suspects in the teens’ deaths. Detectives were also able identify and track down Roberto Fuentes, 19, of Baldwin Park.


Fuentes was arrested and has been charged with arson and multiple counts of murder.

Aguirre and Gonzalez had been celebrating Jimenez’s 18th birthday at the tire shop, which was known as a community gathering place. Gonzalez’s father, Esequiel, owns the shop.

When firefighters arrived about 5:30 a.m., they saw a young man trying to escape the fire from behind heavily locked gates. They tried to rescue him but watched him die before they could get to him, fire officials said.

Aguirre was the mother of two daughters.

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