this day in crime history: march 25, 1990

happylandfireOn this day in 1990, an argument turned into a mass murder at the Happy Land Social Club in the Bronx, NY.

Earlier in the evening, Cuban immigrant Julio Gonzalez was ejected from the club after arguing with his ex-girlfriend, who worked there as a coat check girl. Gonzalez, who had recently lost his job, was enraged. He screamed threats at the bouncers as they ejected him from the club.

Gonzalez returned to the club armed with a container of gasoline and some matches. He poured the gas on the stairs to the club and ignited it. The fire spread quickly. Due to a lack of working fire exits (they were blocked to prevent people from entering the club without paying), the people inside were trapped. Several managed to escape by breaking through a barrier that blocked one of the fire doors. Eighty-seven people died in the fire.

Among those who survived was Gonzalez’s ex-girlfriend. She told police about the argument and Gonzalez’s threats. They tracked him down and arrested him the following afternoon. Shortly after being arrested, Gonzalez confessed to the crime. He was tried and convicted on 87 counts of arson and 87 counts of murder. He was sentenced to 25 years to life on each count. Since the crimes occurred in a single incident, New York State law required that the sentences be served concurrently, rather than consecutively. Gonzalez is currently incarcerated at Clinton Correction Facility. He is scheduled for a parole hearing in November 2016.

The owners of the building were sued by the victims and the families of the deceased. The case was settled for $15.8 million, divided between the plaintiffs.

Further reading:

New York TimesRefugee Found Guilty of Killing 87 in Bronx Happy Land Fire

Murderpedia – Julio Gonzalez

Wikipedia – Happy Land Fire

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7 thoughts on “this day in crime history: march 25, 1990

  1. John D.:
    Goes to show that over 25 years ago, we STILL had issues with immigrants…and domestic quarrels (plus alcohol) that escalate into what amounts to “domestic terrorism”.
    And never a concern for collateral damage, either.

    Sure makes a case for closing all these so-called “after hours and social clubs”.
    Send in some building inspectors and I’d wager that most ALL of those places WOULD be shut down due to numerous code violations.

    Sad story.

    Roll safe out there.

    Like

  2. This is why New York criminal law sucks. 87 people murdered and yet only 25 to life. Should’ve gotten the death penalty. This reminds me of the twit in Europe who killed what, about 100 hundred people and yet got a twenty year sentence for his crime.

    Like

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