Crews Raze Gwinnett Meth House Where 3 Children Died
Atlanta Journal-Constitution, May 30, 2012
Residents of a Gwinnett County neighborhood gathered Wednesday to say goodbye to a house that stood as a constant reminder of tragedy: the day last year when three children died in a fire started by a suspected meth operation.
Crews demolished the house Wednesday morning and expected to have the site cleared by Thursday.
Sue Burton, who said she's lived in the Spring Mill neighborhood near Lilburn for 27 years, was among those watching the demolition.
"I am thrilled that it's finally going to be gone, out of our sight," she said. "Every time we went by we were reminded of the three little kids that died ... it was a horrible day.
"It's good that it's going to go away and hopefully we won't be reminded every single day," she said.
Burton said neighborhood residents tried to make the property look presentable by mowing the grass and keeping it as clean as possible.
She said members of the community "worked hard to get [the demolition] going, but "it took way too long."
Cpl. Jake Smith, Gwinnett County police spokesman, said the demolition was delayed because the owner lived out of state and was still making payments on the property.
"Once the bank reacquired the property, they made this happen relatively quickly," he said. "It was definitely the bank's doing that got the ball rolling and got the demolition done," Smith said.
Burton said she'd like to see the property turned into a park or green space. "It'd be a nice memorial," she said.
"This is a big day for us," said Don Kiefaber, who has lived in the neighborhood for 30 years. "Driving by it every day ... being reminded not only what this is doing to the neighborhood but also thinking about the three young children that died ... this doesn't make them come back but at least it's helping us get past it."
"This is just a big detour in our lives," Kiefaber said. He also hoped the site could be turned into a green space as a way "to honor those poor kids that died in that fire."
John Krueger of Viking Development Group of Braselton, one of two companies doing the demolition work, called it a "new chapter for the neighborhood."
"Once we get it cleaned up and looking nice, I know for the neighborhood it'll definitely be a starting point to move forward," he said.
Isaac Guevara, 4, Ivan Guevara, 3, and 18-month-old Stacy Brito died after the Feb. 17, 2011 fire.
Investigators determined that the fire was related to drug manufacturing, and police believe at least one of the three suspects was cooking meth when the blaze broke out.
Neibi Brito, 23, the mother of the deceased children, remains in the Gwinnett County Detention Center charged with three counts of felony murder and one count of trafficking methamphetamine.
Joseph A. Perez, whose face was burned during the fire, faces the same charges as Brito. He was arrested by Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office deputies and U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents in College Park six days after the fatal blaze.
Ivan Gonzalez, 27, the third suspect in the case, faces identical charges and remains at large.
"We've had some leads into his whereabouts, but none of them panned out," Smith said Wednesday.
Anyone with information on his whereabouts should call detectives at 770-513-5300 or Crime Stoppers at 404-557-8477.
Brito and her children lived in the house with her boyfriend, Gonzalez, and the third suspect, Perez.
Narcotics investigators said they found more than $190,000 in the walls of the home. They also said they discovered more than 4,500 grams of liquid methamphetamine and about 1 pound of finished methamphetamine. More drugs were destroyed in the fire, they said.
Staff writer Andria Simmons contributed to this article.