Lake Station man gets 65 years for fatal Miller arson fire
By Ruth Ann Krause Post-Tribune correspondent January 12, 2013 11:06AM
Rafael Peluyera of Lake Station charged in Miller apartment fire that killed two. | Provided Photo~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 14, 2013 6:55AM
Lake Superior Court Judge Diane Ross Boswell sentenced a 22-year-old Lake Station man to 65 years in prison for killing a mother and her teenage daughter during an arson fire.
Rafael Peluyera apologized to the family of Bernice King, 33, who was killed in the July 25 blaze at the Lake Shore Dunes apartments along with her 14-year-old daughter, Angel Harris.
King’s mother, Janice King, said she wanted to know why Peluyera killed her family and told the judge King left behind five children, all of whom are hurting from their loss. King’s surviving children had to jump from their third-floor apartment.
“You literally burned her alive,” King said of her daughter, who was working three jobs to support her family after her release from prison on a drug offense.
Peluyera said the day before the fire, he was robbed and assaulted by one of King’s sons and two other individuals. Another man orchestrated the robbery. The son involved in the assault wasn’t home at the time the fire was set. Peluyera said he got word that his home would be “cocktailed,” and he responded by setting fire to the building there King and her family lived.
Boswell questioned why the plea agreement spelled out concurrent sentences for the offenses. Deputy prosecutor Mark Watson said he and defense attorney Lemuel Stigler engaged in lengthy plea negotiations. The family wanted guilty pleas to two counts of murder, which is punishable by 45 to 65 years. The facts of the case wouldn’t support a guilty plea to a lesser offense of voluntary manslaughter, which is punishable by 20 to 50 years, so the parties arrived at the 65-year sentence. Peluyera has a minimal criminal history, which also factored into the plea negotiations.