Gwinnett Police have charged a man with multiple counts of murder after three children died from a Lilburn house fire that officials say was fueled by chemicals used in the production of methamphetamine.
Police say investigators found evidence of a meth lab, as well as liquid and finished forms of the drug. Arson investigators say the cause of the fire was related to drug manufacturing.
Gwinnett Police Cpl. Jake Smith said Friday morning that police are looking for Ivan Gonzalez. This afternoon, Smith said Gonzalez may be fleeing out of the state or trying to cross into Mexico.
Gonzalez, 26, is charged with three counts of felony murder in the fire that killed three siblings — 18-month-old Stacy Brito, 3-year-old Ivan Guevara and 4-year-old Isaac Guevara. Gonzalez also is charged with arson and drug trafficking.
The mother, Neibi Brito, 22, is in custody and has been charged with trafficking in methamphetamine, Smith said. Smith said the exact nature of the relationship between Gonzalez and Brito was not known. Both Brito and Gonzalez were at the scene at the time of the fire.
Gwinnett Fire Public Information Officer Capt. Tommy Rutledge said one of the boys died on arrival at Grady Memorial Hospital Thursday night; the other two children died overnight, also at Grady.
Smith said Gonzalez was at the scene fighting the blaze with a garden hose when firefighters and police officers arrived sometime after 4 p.m. Thursday. Gonzalez, who sustained some burn injuries, told police he was the father.
"[Because of that] he was not challenged [by police] when he left the scene to follow the ambulance," said Smith, later saying police were not able to locate him at any area hospital or at "any of his other known locations."
Police describe Gonzalez as a 5-foot-7, 190-pound Hispanic man who may go by the alias John McGowan Torres. He was last seen driving a late-model gray or silver Honda Accord or Civic. Smith said at 4:45 p.m. Friday that Gonzalez may also be traveling in a green 2004-2005 model Chevrolet Trailblazer
The suspect has a tattoo of Jesus Christ on the outside of his left calf.
The fire happened around 4 p.m. Thursday at 1197 Spring Mill Drive in Lilburn. Rutledge said at an 11:15 a.m. press conference that investigators found the chemicals in the house.
Rutledge said the fire broke out in a ground-floor hallway between the kitchen and a stairwell. He said firefighters took samples from the hallway area to be tested.
Smith said police investigators found more than $192,000 in U.S. currency, 4,555 grams of liquid methamphetamine and about a pound of finished methamphetamine. Smith said investigators estimated that four pounds of meth were burned in the fire.
Smith also confirmed in the press conference that Gonzalez had been arrested last week (Feb. 10; false documents) in what is a bizarre twist to the story. He said when Antonio Cardenas-Rico was arrested and initially charged with murder in the recent