PASADENA >> A Pasadena man will spend the rest of his life in prison after a jury convicted him Friday of two counts of murder and other charges for torching a Pasadena boarding home in 2012, killing two men and leaving another severely burned.
A Pasadena jury deliberated for less than an hour before declaring Garth Allen Robbins, who turned 54 on Wednesday, guilty of two counts of first-degree murder, one count of arson causing great bodily injury and one count of arson of an inhabited structure in connection with the deadly and intentional Nov. 1, 2012, fire at a three-story illegal boarding home where he was staying at 1385 El Sereno Ave., according to Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokesman Greg Risling.
“Evidence presented at trial showed that Robbins started the fire at about 2 a.m., when 17 others were asleep inside the house,” Risling said in a written statement. “He doused his room with gasoline and set it ablaze.”
The jury also found true the special allegations of multiple murders, as well as murder in the commission of the arson of an inhabited building, making him potentially eligible for the death penalty, he said. But the prosecution previously elected not to seek capital punishment in the case.
Robbins is expected to be sentenced to two life terms in prison, without the possibility of parole, when he returned to the Pasadena branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court for sentencing on June 7.
Pasadena Fire Department Battalion Chief and Deputy Fire Marshal Wendell Easton said the date of the fatal fire was “a tragic day in Pasadena history.”
The motive in the deadly arson was never fully explained. But there was no indication his roommates were specifically targeted.
Robbins stated during the trial process that he’d lit the fire because “he wanted his life to go away,” Pasadena Fire Department spokeswoman Lisa Derderian said.
Robbins has been in custody since the day after the fire, more than four years ago.
“After four days of dramatic testimony by victims, firefighters and police officers, the jury returned a verdict of guilty on all counts,” Eaton said.
Prosecutors initially filed 15 additional counts of attempted murder against Robbins for the 15 other survivors of the arson attack, but those charges were dismissed by the court prior to trial, Risling said.
Killed in the fire were Cliff Juan Clark and Paul Richard Boyd, who succumbed to smoke inhalation, coroner’s officials said. Another resident of the boarding home, then-65-year-old Perry Simmons, suffered sever injuries in the fire, but survived.
The owner of the boarding home has since pleaded guilty to violating a 2007 city ordinance barring boarding homes and group homes of more than six residents in most parts of the city.
Jeannette Broussard was initially charged with 136 municipal code violations, but ultimately agreed to plead guilty to 23 violations. She was received three years of probation, $6,200 in fines and penalties and victim restitution.
Eaton commended the many police and fire investigators who handled the complex case.
“Thank you to everyone involved, from the day of the fire to the successful prosecution of this case,” he said. “This incident highlights the unique and successful relationship between the Pasadena Police Department and the Pasadena Fire Department in the investigation of arson related offenses.”
PHOTO: Garth Allen Robbins, 54, was convicted of two counts of murder and two counts of arson on Friday, April 7, 2017, for a Nov. 1, 2012, arson fire at a Pasadena boarding home that left two men dead and another badly burned. Robbins is pictured during his preliminary hearing Tuesday, June 18, 2013, in the Pasadena branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court.(SGVN/Staff File Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz)