How a big mortgage led to murder

This is the lot where their house used to be.

Victor and Olga Barriere owned a 680 square foot house on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in Long Beach, California. They owed $315,000 on the mortgage. The house, built in 1921, needed repairs to get it up to code. They wanted to sell but could find nobody who wanted to buy.

That's when they decided their best option was to burn it down. Commit a little arson. That way they could deceive the insurance company and at least get some money for the place.

They hired their handyman to do the job.

Thomas Trucios had never been hired as an arsonist before. He didn't have any experience in this line of work. He decided to use gasoline to destroy the place. He used a lot of gasoline to get the job done.

The house did not just catch on fire. It exploded.

Residents for several blocks were awakened by the blast, which shattered all of the house's windows and cracked the house's walls and damaged the sidewalks.

Mr. Trucios was too close when the house exploded.

He was badly burned. He received third degree burns over 95% of his body. He got in his car and tried to drive to his home. He called his family on his cell phone and screamed for them to come get him. His daughter, his son and his wife tried to get him into their car to take him to the hospital.

His daughter said that she saw his burnt skin peeling off and sticking to the car seat, while the windows kept fogging up from the heat. She said she knew her dad was still burning inside.

He died in the hospital on the same day.

It took four years to get the criminal case together.

The homeowners who hired Mr. Trucios were first charged with murder. They decided to plea bargain.

Fifty-two-year-old Victor Barriere pleaded no contest to involuntary manslaughter and conspiracy to commit arson and conspiracy to commit insurance fraud. He was sentenced to over 14 years in prison.

His wife, 59-year-old Olga Barriere, pleaded to conspiracy to commit insurance fraud and was sentenced to 6 years.

Three years after the fire, the empty lot where the house stood sold for $30,000.

- Long Beach couple sentenced to state prison for death of handy man in arson scheme, Press-Telegram>>
- 1090 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. Long Beach, California, Google Maps>>
- 1090 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. Long Beach, California, Zillow>>

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