LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — There are new details surrounding the investigation into the deadliest residential fire in the history of the City of Las Vegas, including text messages and a video interview by a key witness in the case.
13 Investigates has obtained a recorded interview by a private investigator for the attorneys representing the Alpine Motel Apartments, Adolfo Orozco-Garcia.
The interview involves Catherine Jocobo, a key witness in the fire investigation.
Jocobo told the private investigator the emergency door was bolted shut at the direction of an Alpine Motel Apartment manager, Jason Canteel.
"We all knew that was a fire hazard, but at the same time, as I always say, I never thought it would be our destruction that it would tear everything apart, tear us apart," said Jocobo.
Jocobo is the purported life-partner of Don Bennett.
Bennett was a military vet and a live-in handyman at the property. He was hailed as a hero for helping his fellow tenants escape the flames, but he ultimately perished in the fire.
Jocobo says Bennett was instructed to bolt the emergency exit door shut by Canteel.
"Jason made that decision to nail the back door shut knowing, knowing it was a fire hazard because several people in the building including Don, including myself, pointed out to him, 'hey I don't know about that, that's a fire hazard," said Jocobo.
"Well, he said, do it anyway, he wanted it done anyway," said Jocobo.
Jocobo says Bennett went along with the direction because the couple could not afford to lose their jobs due to their financial position.
13 Investigates has obtained, but unable to independently verify, text messages provided by attorneys for the property owner, Adolfo Orozco-Garcia, which indicate there was a text message exchange between Orozco-Garcia and Canteel at the end of August 2019 to replace an exit door.
The text messages indicate Orozco-Garcia approved the purchase and installation of a 90 minute, fire-rated exit door.
Canteel indicated he was shopping for a door and looking for a company to install it at the property.
Jocobo says the door was never installed, and instead, the exit door was bolted shut.
Jocobo claims Orozco-Garcia did not know about the exit door, nor did he direct anyone to bolt the emergency door shut.
"[Orozco-Garcia was busy doing other stuff because he has a lot going on, so he doesn't even know, and Jason made that decision on his own, to nail the back door shut which cost people their lives including Don," said Jocobo.
13 Investigates attempted to contact Canteel for comment but was unsuccessful.
13 Investigates also contacted the attorney representing Don Bennett's estate and family, but he declined to comment on the new information.
There is a court hearing set for Thursday regarding a potential investigation protocol for the property in a variety of civil lawsuits that have been filed.