CRIME

Couple plead guilty in gender reveal party that sparked California wildfire, killing beloved firefighter

Refugio Manuel Jimenez Jr. and Angela Renee Jimenez pleaded guilty to causing the El Dorado Fire, which killed firefighter Charlie Morton. (Screenshot: OnScene.TV by way of KTLA; image of Morton memorial: Terry Pierson/The Orange County Register via AP, Fire)

The husband and wife accused of starting the deadly El Dorado Fire through a gender reveal party have reached a deal with prosecutors.

Authorities previously said the couple had used a smoke bomb in the gender reveal party, which sparked the fire.

Refugio Manuel Jimenez Jr. pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter; two counts of recklessly causing a fire to an inhabited structure, said the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office in California on Friday. All of his charges felonies. He was sentenced to a year in jail, two years of felony probation, and 200 hours of community service. He is scheduled to enter custody on Feb. 23.

His co-defendant and wife, Angela Renee Jimenez, pleaded guilty three misdemeanor counts of recklessly causing fire to property of another. She was sentenced to one year of summary probation and 400 hours of community service.

The conflagration that started Sept. 5, 2020, took the life of Forest Service firefighter Charlie Morton, 29, a crew boss for the Big Bear Hotshots. He was survived by his fiancee, daughter, parents, two brothers, cousins, friends, and other members of the Big Bear Hotshots firefighting crew.

“Charlie was holding the line on the slopes of San Bernardino Peak when he was overtaken by fire,” authorities said.

Beloved firefighter
From the Forest Service:

Charlie was known and will be remembered for many things. His colorful storytelling, filled with humor that would often veer off into multiple other funny stories before reaching its conclusion. He was a caring and giving person; always striving to uplift those around him. Whether it was letting a friend borrow a vehicle, helping with some manual labor, or just offering some good advice, Charles would never hesitate to assist those around him. Never one to complain about a job needing to be done and no matter what the situation, Charles could always find a way to add a positive or entertaining spin to any situation. Charles made events more memorable and experiences richer. A weekend spent in the company of Charlie often produced fond memories that would last a lifetime. He had an indescribable ability to make the lives of those around him better…simply because it was in his nature to do so.

Most of all Charles will be remembered for his fierce love of family and friends; his fiancé Monica, daughter Ava, brothers Miguel and Allen, and his parents Edward and Erendia. Whether it was hanging out at the pool, visiting family out of town, or going fishing, Charles loved and cherished his time spent with his family, always looking for something fun or interesting to do with those he loved.

Charles’s presence will be greatly missed by his family and friends. His spirit of selflessness, hard work, and generosity will live on in anyone blessed enough to have known him.

Resolving the case was never going to be a win.”
The defendants must also pay $1,789,972 in victim restitution over the destructive fire

“Resolving the case was never going to be a win.” said San Bernardino County District Attorney Jason Anderson. “The Defendants’ reckless conduct had tremendous impact on land, properties, emergency response resources, the displacement of entire communities, and resulted in the tragic death of Forest Service Wildland Firefighter Charles Morton. All these factors were given an extraordinary amount of consideration throughout every step of investigation, the Grand Jury process, and court proceedings.”

Prosecutors said they sought input from victims regarding restitution.

“To the victims who lost so much, including their homes with valuables and memories, we understand those are intangibles can never be replaced,” Anderson said. “Our hope with this resolution is that it closes a painful chapter in your lives, and the restitution provides a measure of assistance in becoming whole again

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