The jury trial for one of two men charged with using a flare gun to cause a Joliet house fire that killed an infant and two women has been pushed to November after prosecutors filed three new motions in the case.
The trial for Andy Cerros, 20, of Joliet was scheduled Nov. 16 after it was originally slated for Aug. 10. Cerros, and Manuel Escamilla, 21, of Joliet have been charged with the murder of Regina Rogers, 28, Rogers' 11-month-old daughter, Royalty Rogers, and Jacquetta Rogers, 29.
The two woman and infant were killed in a house fire on June 3, 2017, at 16 N. Center St. Prosecutors charged Escamilla and Cerros with causing the fire with a flare gun in an attempt to kill Rakeem “Rocky” Venson, who managed to escape by jumping out a window of the home.
Prosecutors said Venson and Escamilla belong to rival street gangs and the motive for the arson was related to an ongoing gang-related feud.
Prosecutors filed three pending motions in Cerros’ case that alleged he stole a flare gun from Walmart, he’s affiliated with a gang and that Escamilla, defendant-turned-witness Eric Raya, 21, and Cerros were “smoking blunts and taking Xanax” before the incident.
Escamilla’s case has yet to go trial and his attorney Chuck Bretz has requested a special prosecutor after claiming in a motion that prosecutors engaged in “legal whitewashing” of Raya by not finding him in violation of his probation and plea deal. Bretz’s motion will have a hearing on July 24.
Raya was once charged with murder and arson in connection with the case but prosecutors agreed to drop the charges in exchange for his guilty plea to lesser crimes and his testimony against Cerros and Escamilla.
Raya testified he was inside of a car with Cerros and Escamilla during the incident and he heard “two pops” before he saw Cerros hold an orange flare gun and say, “I think I got it through the window.”
Raya was arrested last November in Summit on an armed robbery charge. Prosecutors did not file a petition to revoke his probation until May 5. A hearing on that petition is scheduled for July 21.
Will County Assistant State's Attorney Chris Koch objected to Bretz's special prosecutor request by arguing the appearance of an impropriety is no longer a basis for that request and there was no actual conflict of interest in the case.
"The state's attorney is clearly not a party in the case. Nor can defendant Escamilla identify anything even resembling the state's attorney's personal interest in the case," Koch's motion said.