3 charged in arson fire

May 11, 2009 8:26:53 PM PDT
Three people are in custody and are charged in a weekend arson fire that claimed the life of a 12-year-old boy. Police say the fire appears to have been gang related.

All three suspects are said to have given confessions and are being held without bond. The family had lived at the home less than three weeks. Now a mother and daughter are hospitalized and a memorial on the front lawn is set up for 12-year-old Jorge Juarez, who died in the early morning fire Saturday.

Mundeleine police say the home was targeted.

"This is an internal struggle. All four are members of the same gang. They had some disagreements and they were targeting that house because they knew that this gang member lived there," said Deputy Chief Mike O'Brien, Mundelein Police Dept.

The family moved to Mundelein from Grayslake to try to escape gang problems. Police say someone smashed their windows and tried to start a fire at the Grayslake home and on Saturday they did the same thing, starting the fire with a Molotov cocktail which ignited the house. The 18-year-old who was the gang's alleged target was not home.

"I feel so sad, especially knowing that this young boy died," said Maria Maldonado, neighbor.

Police have charged 20-year-old he will Elber Hernandez and his brother, 17-year-old Edwin Hernandez, with first degree murder for allegedly starting the fire. Officials have also charged 25-year-old Manuel Flores, a higher up gang member, with murder for allegedly ordering the brothers to incite the fire.

"It's very unfortunate. They moved away from Grayslake to get away from this problem and it followed them here," said O'Brien.

The fire cause about $150,000 damage to the house but devastated the family. The mother remains hospitalized. Her 11-year-old daughter remains hospitalized in the burn unit. We are told their injuries are very serious and neither is expected to be released any time soon.


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