The Bonnie Brae Arms Apartments were a 210 unit complex located in the Westlake section of Los Angeles. In the early 2000's it was owned by a real estate holding company that was essentially a slumlord. The apartments had a history of violations of health and safety regulations. An unlicensed daycare center was operated in the basement. In 1993 a fire started in the trash dumpster located in the basement. Smoke entered the daycare center, killing five children and four adults. Lucia Soto was in the daycare center, but she survived the fire.
Initial investigation of the fire indicated that the cause was accidental. Two weeks later, lab work showed the presence of Varsol, an expensive high-grade paint thinner and solvent. It then became an arson investigation in the Criminal Conspiracy Section with Detective Jack Harris leading the investigation. Evidence was scant. There were no fingerprints and no DNA. Informants from the neighborhood said that the Pico-Union La Raza gang had set the fire. Victor Chapa , a member of the gang, became the prime suspect when it was learned that he had access to Varsol from his work in an auto shop. However, when police went to the shop to arrest him, he disappeared. No further evidence was uncovered linking the fire to Chapa or any other suspect.
In 2014 Lucia Soto and Harry Bosch reopened the case.