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Arsonist Behind 1981 NoHo Restaurant Fire Denied Parole

Gov. Jerry Brown overrides a parole board's decision to release 71-year-old Mario Catanio who was sent to prison for starting the blaze that killed a firefighter.

Gov. Jerry Brown rejected a parole request last Friday for a convicted arsonist who set a North Hollywood restaurant ablaze more than 30 years ago, killing one firefighter and injuring several others, the Daily News reports.

Mario Catanio was arrested and sent to prison for torching Cugees Restaurant at 5300 Lankershim Blvd. during the early morning hours of Jan. 28, 1981, according to a Los Angeles Fire Department blog.

Around 3:30 a.m. that evening, the team of Fire Station 60 was dispatched to the scene. As recalled in the blog:

Four members of Truck 60 were cutting a hole near the center of the roof when, without warning, it began to sink beneath their feet. One firefighter described the sensation as similar to standing on the deck of a rapidly listing ship. As the roof sank, it fell at a steep angle, slowly and agonizingly pulling Apparatus Operator Thomas G. Taylor to his death.

Catanio, who was 42 and working as a barber at the time, was paid $2,500 to burn Cugees down so owners Henry Martinez and Arlene Boyle could cash in on their insurance policy, according to the Daily News.

Both Martinez and Boyle were given 10-year sentences, while Catanio was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. He's been eligible for parole since 1997.

In 2004, Catanio apologized for his crimes and claimed he was ready to rejoin society. A parole board voted to release the now 71-year-old Catanio, but Gov. Brown overrode the decision .

"I am concerned Mr. Catanio lacks a proper appreciation for the gravity of his actions," the governor wrote.

In a statement, Capt. Frank Lima, president of United Firefighters of Los Angeles City, Local 112, added: "While arsonist Catanio is now 71, he is still a danger to society today."

Catanio will be eligible for parole again next year, the Daily News reports.

Click here to read more about the night Catanio set Cugees Restaurant on fire.

Click here to read more about the governor's decision to deny parole.

Lynne Gerre December 19, 2012 at 05:40 PM
The firefighter that was killed was my friend's cousin - She still misses him. His family hasn't forgotten.
Bob Peppermuller December 21, 2012 at 09:03 PM
I remember that also. It originally was a small walk in Big Boy..

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