Witness: Bronx building owner knew of illegal partitions

Posted: Updated:

A family member of a man who allegedly contributed to the deaths of two firefighters in the Bronx took the stand Wednesday in the "Black Sunday" trial.

Amarilis German told jurors at the Bronx County Hall of Justice that she collected rent for building owner Cesar Rios from 1998 up until the deadly blaze in 2005. In her testimony, German said Rios knew his tenants, Rafael Castillo - German's father-in-law - and Cardidad Coste, were illegally dividing their apartments to get more rent.

The three men are charged with manslaughter for allegedly contributing to the deaths of Lt. Curtis Meyran and firefighter John Bellew, of Pearl River, by building illegal partitions in the building. Prosecutors have maintained that both firefighters were forced to jump to their deaths from the fourth floor of a building on East 178th Street because the building's fire escape was illegally blocked.

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