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Moniza Murillo Sentenced to Four Years in Prison for Young Champions Arson Fire

The last of the three surviving karate instructors who burned down the Phoenix headquarters of a youth-instruction firm has been sentenced to four years in prison.

Moniza Murillo, 20, received the lightest sentence of the three, apparently as reward for providing the most help to authorities following the June 14 blaze. As New Times reported in January's feature article about the case, Murillo was a full participant in the arson of the Young Champions of America building in 40th Street just north of Roeser Road.

Phoenix investigators found that she helped Jeffrey Otto, Joshua Robinson and Jonathan Antonucci buy gasoline and haul gas cans onto a 2nd-floor balcony at Young Champions. Robinson, a 28-year-old, divorced father of three, burned to death after striking a match while standing in a fuel-soaked office.

Murillo and Otto drove to a field and burned the black clothing they had worn, which reeked of gas. Then they went home and watched the movie, "Liar, Liar" with Antonucci.

All three lied to police initially. Yet, as our January article revealed, Murillo was the first to crack, tearfully 'fessing up to Marika McCue, a Phoenix Fire Department investigator.

Murillo soon signed a plea agreement that required her to testify against Otto, who maintained his innocence until pleading guilty in April.

Antonucci, who had embezzled money from Young Champions and launched his own company to teach karate to kids, pleaded guilty in November and was sentenced in March to 14 years in prison. Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Joseph Kreamer told Antonucci he found it disturbing that children who took instruction from the arsonists had to cope with the aftermath of the crime.

Kramer handed Otto a 10-year sentence last month.

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