After a weeklong trial, a jury deliberated a little more than an hour before convicting Juan Adame, 39, of setting fire to his girlfriend’s apartment building in January 2012 in a jealous rage after she broke off their rocky relationship.
The girlfriend wasn’t home at the time, but James Maca who lived in an adjacent apartment, was trapped by the flames and died
of smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide poisoning.
Adame, who has been in custody since his arrest two months after the arson,
faces up to life in prison at sentencing on Feb. 11.
Adame’s attorney, Frank Avila, vowed an appeal, saying the judge had erred in
letting an arson victim on the jury. In closing arguments earlier Friday, he
told jurors that prosecutors had no direct evidence linking Adame to the arson
and that police failed to follow up on other promising leads.
“There’s no fingerprint on the gas can, no footprint leaving the place,
nothing,” Avila told jurors.
In her testimony at trial, Adame’s former girlfriend, Blanca Ortiz, painted
him as odd and controlling. Prosecutors presented evidence that during their
six-month relationship, Adame had broken into her home in the 4200 block of West
63rd Street on several occasions and taken her personal possessions – a Marilyn
Monroe blanket, photographs, even her Barbie dolls. He also had filmed Ortiz
without her knowledge, she said.
Ortiz testified that hours before the fatal blaze, she and Adame had fought
about her decision to return to work as an exotic dancer. Later that night, she
came home to find her car and television missing and broke up with him by text
message. “I’m not forgiving u this time,” she said in one text shown to
Another former girlfriend of Adame’s testified she was with him early that
morning when he stopped at a gas station. Prosecutors said Adame left the girl
waiting around the corner while he went into Ortiz’s apartment, doused the
bedroom and couch with gas and set them ablaze.
Maca, 60, known affectionately in the West Lawn neighborhood as “Boots,” was
seen waving frantically from his second-floor window.