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Archive for Wednesday, October 11, 2000

Death toll rises to 3 in arson fire

Injuries prove fatal after victim jumps

October 11, 2000

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— The death toll has risen to three in an arson fire last month at an apartment building, and police say they have few leads in the case.

Ricardo A. Lopez, 45, died Saturday not of injuries from the fire, but from when he tried to escape the blaze.

He had been hospitalized since Sept. 17, when someone set fire to the apartments in Kansas City's Northeast district.

Relatives said Lopez jumped from his second-story window and broke most of the bones in his face and his right arm and suffered internal injuries, including bruised lungs.

Dozens of people were trapped in the building by the fast-moving, early-morning blaze. Some were rescued by ladder while others, like Lopez, had to jump to the ground.

"He felt safe in his home, and then somebody decides to burn it down," said his sister, Sadie Latting. "We want this man caught. He killed three people."

Yvette Mendez, 32, and Kathy Butler, 45, also died when they were unable to escape the fire. Butler's mother, who jumped from the second floor, was among the eight people injured, not counting Lopez.

Homicide Sgt. Jay Pruetting said he thinks someone set fire to the building as revenge against one of the residents. Pruetting said witnesses saw two men leaving the building just before the fire erupted. The witnesses heard the men laughing before they drove off, tires squealing.

Detectives have yet to determine the intended target, the motive or who started the fire.

Latting said Lopez, who worked as a bookbinder, had lived at the building about two years.

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