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Suspect in lethal Pasadena fire is charged

Garth Allen Robbins is arraigned on 19 criminal charges, including two counts of capital murder, in the house blaze. Prosecutors may seek the death penalty.

November 07, 2012|By Joe Piasecki, Los Angeles Times

The man accused of causing a Pasadena house fire that killed two men and severely injured another last week pleaded not guilty to murder and arson charges during a brief appearance Tuesday in a Pasadena courtroom.

Garth Allen Robbins, 49, a resident of the property that burned, was arraigned on 19 criminal charges, including two counts of capital murder, 15 counts of attempted murder, arson causing great bodily injury and arson of an inhabited structure.

Prosecutors may seek the death penalty, according to a statement from the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.

L.A. County Superior Court Judge Terry Smerling ordered Robbins held without bail.

Robbins is being represented by Pasadena attorney Rayford Fountain. Fountain said he has received little information about the police investigation into the case and is reviewing what details he does have. He added that he has asked for a mental health evaluation of his client.

Robbins, Fountain said, "is a very mild-mannered and polite individual."

Pasadena officials first received reports of an explosion at 1385 El Sereno Ave. at 2:15 a.m. on Nov. 1. The house was zoned for single-family use but was apparently being used a boarding or rooming house in violation of municipal codes, according to city officials.

Paul Richard Boyd, 75, and Cliff Juan Clark, 56, died in the explosion and fire. Perry Simons was seriously injured. Sixteen other residents escaped.

Robbins was not at home when firefighters arrived at the scene, according to some residents. He was arrested early Friday at a local restaurant by Pasadena police.

Smerling scheduled a conference for Dec. 4 to set a date for a preliminary hearing in the case.

The charge of murder with special circumstances comes on the same day California voters decide whether the state should continue to impose the death penalty.

Proposition 34 would repeal capital punishment and replace it with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment without possibility of parole.

"An interesting part is going to be what happens tonight, whether the death penalty survives," Fountain said. "This election is a big one" for Robbins.

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