MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The man charged with starting a fire in a Walmart parking lot in Fridley that killed a 6-year-old girl and critically injured another has appeared in court. We also heard more from the mother of the victims at a press conference Thursday morning.
Roberto Hipolito, 70, is charged with second-degree manslaughter and two counts of negligently causing a fire.
Investigators believe Hipolito had a cook stove that set his van on fire Tuesday morning. It then spread to another vehicle with two young sisters inside.
The mother, Essie McKenzie, now watching her 9-year-old daughter fight for her life at Hennepin Healthcare. Her 6-year-old daughter, Ty’rah, already passed away as a result of the injuries from the fire.
“She fought a good fight, she really did,” McKenzie said. “I just really miss her. I really do.”
According to the criminal complaint, Hipolito told police he and his wife had parked in the lot and slept overnight in their van. Surveillance video showed Hipolito placing his stove on the pavement by the rear of the van and cooking something.
The criminal complaint said he didn’t allow time for the stove to cool before he put it back in the van and moved the van closer to the store before going in. Within minutes his van caught fire, as did the vehicles on either side.
McKenzie’s daughters Ty’rah and Taraji were asleep in one of those vehicles, while McKenzie had gone into the store to get something.
At the hospital, McKenzie talked about how her 9-year-old daughter is still fighting for her life with serious smoke inhalation injuries, as well as burn injuries.
“It’s a long road ahead for Taraji, because she doesn’t know too much about what’s going on, until she wakes up and sees her reality now,” McKenzie said.
In court Thursday when Hipolito first appeared, the judge asked if he had listened to his rights but he said he wasn’t paying attention, so they had to play them again and started 15 minutes later.
Hipolito’s bail was set at $150,000 unconditional or $100,000 conditional, but has to surrender his passport. His next court appearance is September 5.