In the wake of a gender reveal party that led to a massive California wildfire last year, the couple has been officially charged this past week with involuntary manslaughter among a series of other crimes.
As reported by CBS News, officials have announced that the couple has been charged with involuntary manslaughter along with a bevy of felony and misdemeanor counts and have chosen to plead not guilty.
“Refugio Manuel Jimenez Jr. and Angela Renee Jimenez pleaded not guilty Monday to charges involving the El Dorado Fire, San Bernardino County District Attorney Jason Anderson announced at a news conference,” reported the news source.
“The charges included one felony count of involuntary manslaughter, along with other felony and misdemeanor counts related to the fire. CBS Los Angeles reports the couple each face up to 20 years behind bars if convicted as charged,” the outlet continued.
As reported by the Desert Sun, the “judge released them on their own recognizance despite prosecutors’ request that they each be held on $50,000 bail, Anderson said.”
The fire inadvertently started by the couple led to the death of Firefighter Charlie Morton, who was a veteran of 14 years and known as a “hotshot” firefighter employed with the San Bernardino Nation Forest. The fire itself has reportedly led to 13 injuries.
Anderson was then asked how prosecutors would make the case that the actions of the couple were entirely responsible for the death of Morton, Anderson also went on to say that he was “fighting a fire that was started because of a smoke bomb.”
“That’s the only reason he was there,” he added.
The couple supposedly used a smoke device that malfunctioned and caught fire in the grass next to their gender reveal event. They tried to put out the resulting fire using bottled water and phoned the police, as reported by the local authorities.
The court date set for the couple is September 15th, which is roughly a year after the initial fire took place. “By the time the fire was extinguished Nov. 16, it had burned 22,680 acres in the Oak Glen/Yucaipa Ridge area and within the San Gorgonio Wilderness Area of the San Bernardino National Forest. At the peak of the fire, there were 1,351 personnel assigned to the fire,” reported CBS Los Angeles.
“The blaze…forced the evacuations of hundreds of residents in small communities in the San Bernardino National Forest area. It destroyed five homes and 15 other buildings. The blaze blackened nearly 36 square miles of land in San Bernardino and Riverside counties,” continued CBS.