An appeals court upheld a man’s conviction in connection with a firebombing of a house in Mundelein — which killed a 12-year-old boy and injured his two family members in 2009.
Manuel A. Flores, 38, formerly of Round Lake Beach, was charged in May 2009 with multiple counts of murder and multiple counts of aggravated arson.
He entered into a plea deal in 2011 and pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated arson knowing people were present, a Class X felony, in exchange for his other charges being dismissed.
Court documents show the charges stemmed from an apparent hit that Flores ordered to two fellow Latin King gang members — Elver H. Hernandez and Edwin J. Hernandez.
The Hernandez brothers on May 9, 2009, took a bottle with accelerant in it and a wick and lit it, prosecutors said.
They threw the bottle into a home in Mundelein where they thought Rafael Juarez, also a gang member, was inside.
Rafael Juarez was not home at the time but his 12-year-old brother Jorge Juarez, sister and mother were.
Jorge Juarez died while the mother and sister were injured after jumping from the second floor to escape the fire.
Prosecutors said Flores issued an SOS — “smash on site” — order during a gang meeting the day before the fatal arson fire.
The order was general in nature and there was no specific order to burn the house, prosecutors noted.
Flores was sentenced to 18 years in prison as part of his plea deal, which meant he voluntarily accepted accountability for the arson.
In 2013, Flores filed a postconviction petition seeking to withdraw his guilty plea and claimed his defense counsel was ineffective. That petition was dismissed.
In late 2021, Flores filed another postconviction petition and said he was not the one who ordered the SOS and was “not legally responsible for the crimes of those who did.”
The trial court denied that petition as well and Flores then appealed the decision to the Second District Appellate Court of Illinois.
The appeals court recently issued a ruling and said the trial court properly denied Flores leave to file his latest petition.
Flores is scheduled to be paroled from the Illinois Department of Corrections on August 12, 2024.