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2 Plead Not Guilty in Fatal Hotel Arson

December 15, 2001

The owner of the Palomar Hotel in Hollywood and his stepfather pleaded not guilty Friday in Los Angeles Superior Court on charges of murder, arson and insurance fraud in connection with a fire in August that killed two people.

Judge Henry Barela ordered Juan Jose Ortiz, 44, and Joseph Donald Lewellen, 67, back to court Jan. 18, when he will set a date for a preliminary hearing.

Ortiz and Lewellen were arrested Nov. 21 at their North Hills home. They could face the death penalty.

One victim was hotel resident Norma Galindo, 38, who fell to her death just after handing her two small children to rescuers on a ladder outside her fourth-floor window.

The other was Ortiz's brother Arturo, the resident manager. Officials say the brother set the fire in an insurance scam.

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