Debris left in the area where authorities believe the fire began led to the discovery of the suspects. The five suspects are not Malibu residents or Pepperdine students.
By Jonathan Friedman/Assistant Editor
Five suspects have been arrested and charge in connection with last month’s Corral Fire. They suspects are facing three felony charges, and could go to prison for up to four years if convicted.
The suspects are Los Angeles residents Brian Allen Anderson, 22, William Thomas Coppock, 23, and Brian David Franks, 27 as well as Culver City residents Eric Matthew Ullman, 18, and Dean Allen Lavorante, 19. of Culver City. The three felony counts are recklessly causing a fire with great bodily injury, recklessly causing a fire to an inhabited structures and arson during an emergency. They will be arraigned on Monday in Van Nuys Superior Court. Bail amounts of $240,000 to $265,000 are being recommended.
The fire was believed to have started at a cave at the top of Corral Canyon Road during a late night/early morning party.
“This wasn’t an oops,” District Attorney Steve Cooley said in a statement. “These charges reflect criminal recklessness that resulted in [six] injuries and the destruction of 53 homes and other structures.”
Cooley continued, “The law is clear. You cannot go into a high fire danger area and for whatever reason build a fire. It’s not only a recipe for disaster, it is a criminal act.”
Evidence of food wrappers and precut fire logs were found at the scene by arson investigators, Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca said at a press conference this afternoon. Investigators checked with the local Ralphs regarding the purchase of such items, viewed surveillance tapes and searched through receipts. After obtaining a search warrant, investigators retrieved debit card information that led to two witnesses to the fire. Also, a citizen responded to a press release by arson investigators requesting information, who “offered valuable assistance” resulting in the arrest warrants, Baca said.
City Councilmember Ken Kearsley said tonight that he was impressed with the speed of the investigation. “It’s amazing, some great detective work,” he said.
The fire, which began Nov. 24, destroyed 53 homes, and injured six firefighters, including one who received second-degree burns to the face.