A 19-year-old man plans to go to trial in March on charges alleging that he used a flare gun to cause a Joliet house fire that killed an infant and two women two years ago.
The jury trial for murder and arson charges against Andy Cerros is scheduled for March 23 before Judge Dan Kennedy of the 12th Judicial Circuit at the Will County Courthouse.
Cerros was 17 when he was arrested along with Manuel Escamilla, 20, and Eric Raya, 21, in connection with the June 3, 2017, fire at 16 N. Center St. that killed Regina Rogers, 28, her 11-month-old daughter, Royalty Rogers, and Jacquetta Rogers, 29.
The Will County State’s Attorney’s Office charged all three men with causing the fire with a flare gun in a failed attempt to kill Rakeem Venson. Prosecutors said Venson and Escamilla belonged to rival street gangs.
Prosecutors dropped all charges against Raya on Aug. 14 in exchange for his testimony on the flare gun attack and his guilty plea to obstruction of justice and aggravated battery in an unrelated case.
Raya testified that he was a passenger in a car driven by Escamilla during the incident. He testified that he heard “two pops” while the car was at Center Street and saw Cerros holding a flare gun.
Cerros’ attorney, Blake Stone, said prosecutors offered to recommend a 45-year prison sentence for his client in exchange for his guilty plea to the murder charge. Some of the other charges would’ve been dropped, he said. He said the agreement wasn’t acceptable and Cerros decided to go to trial. He argued that Cerros was not the shooter.
“I think the state is going to have a hard time establishing intent,” Stone said.
Escamilla’s case has yet to go to trial. His next court date is Dec. 16.