The two siblings and their dad tried to escape by running out the back of the three-flat, but a a wall of heat and flames appeared to block their path, Burgos recalled this week in a Cook County courtroom.
As her dad carried her, he tripped, causing her to fall to the floor and pass out. She awakened in a hospital bed to discover she had been rescued by a Chicago firefighter who crawled in the heat and black smoke to find her.
Despite suffering third degree burns that required skin grafts on her thigh, Burgos and her family were the lucky ones. A pregnant mother, Rosanna Ocampo, 23, and her 7-year-old daughter, ltzel Fernandez, were killed in the 2009 fire.
On trial for the murder is Jovan Djurdjlov, now 22, a reputed gang member who prosecutors alleged was angry after a rival gang tossed a brick through a window of his family’s home. He targeted the three-flat since two rivals lived, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors allege Djurdjlov ignited the fire by pouring gasoline on the front stairs, but in his confession, he admitted to acting as a lookout for an accomplice.
“The burning gasoline turned into a raging inferno,” Assistant State’s Attorney Mary Lacy said in opening statements on Monday. “Itzel and her mother didn’t have a chance.”
Two prosecution witnesses testified that Djurdjlov came to their home reeking of gasoline in the hours following the January 2009 fire. According to Lacy’s opening remarks, one of the witnesses, a fellow gang member, allegedly was told by Djurdjlov, ”I messed up, I messed up, I burnt a building down.”
Djurdjlov’s attorney, Damon Cheronis, told jurors that his client’s confession came after an eight-hour interrogation.
“You are going to see the anatomy of a false confession,” he said in his opening statement.
Cheronis also said the two key prosecution witnesses had changed their stories .
The trial offers a window into the Albany Park gang rivalries that spread from Roosevelt High School onto the streets and back. Jurors have also heard of the heroics from fire and police who responded to a 911 call of the fire in the 3900 block of West Argyle Street at 1:11 a.m.
Dressed in a hoodie that read “#1 Hustler,” Alexis Burgos’ brother, Frankie , now 20, testified that he was once a foot soldier in the Spanish Gangster Disciples but was no longer active in the gang.
Frankie Burgos testified that he was confronted the day of the fire while leaving Roosevelt High School by Djurdjlov and other rival Spanish Cobras, but the situation was defused when his father arrived to pick him up. He awoke later that night to find their apartment filled with smoke.
“It’s ridiculous how people could do this when there’s three families (living in the building),” Ocampo’s sister, Cindy Abarca, said outside the courtroom Tuesday. “My sister will never come back.”