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Posted: February 18, 2011 5:04 p.m.

Three Lilburn children die in meth fire

 Three young children have died from injuries suffered in a fire in a suburban home in Lilburn that was likely caused when chemicals used to make methamphetamine ignited, authorities said Friday.

Gwinnett County police Cpl. Jake Smith said Friday that police were seeking 26-year-old Ivan Gonzalez and have charged him with murder in the deaths of the three young children. The children's mother, 22-year-old Neibi Brito, was arrested after the fire and charged with trafficking methamphetamine.

Narcotics investigators found $192,155 in cash in the walls of the home and also found 4,555 grams of liquid methamphetamine and 1 pound of finished methamphetamine, Smith said. Investigators estimate that approximately 4 pounds were burned in the fire.

When firefighters arrived at the two-story, wood frame house a little after 4 p.m. Thursday, heavy smoke was billowing from inside. Two young children were outside and a third was being carried out through a window. Gonzalez was trying to put the fire out with a garden hose.

The fire started on the first floor of the house in a hallway between the kitchen and a stairwell. The three children were on the second floor of the house when the fire broke out.

The children - 18-month-old Stacy Brito, 3-year-old Ivan Guevara and 4-year-old Isaac Guevara - were taken to the hospital, where they later died from their injuries. Gonzalez, who is not the children's father, followed the ambulance when it left and was last seen driving a silver or gray Honda sedan. Police said he may now be driving a green Chevrolet Trail Blazer and he may flee the state or try to cross into Mexico.

Police described Gonzalez as being 5-foot-7 and 190 pounds, with short hair and a tattoo of Jesus on the outside of one of his calves. Police released a mug shot of Gonzalez from an arrest just a week before the fire.

Gonzalez was arrested Feb. 10 when he was at another house in Suwanee with Antonio Cardenas-Rico, who was wrongly accused in the stabbing deaths of his girlfriend's two young sons. The murder charges against Cardenas-Rico were dropped two days later when investigators charged the children's father with murder in the stabbing deaths.

Cardenas-Rico, who is believed to be in the country illegally, is still being held on a felony drug charge. Gonzalez was originally arrested on a charge of having false documents - he presented a fake Georgia driver's license with the name John McGowan Torres - and was released on bond. After his release, authorities charged him with the same drug charges that Cardenas-Rico is still being held on.

Smith said it's not clear why Gonzalez was released. A spokeswoman for the Gwinnett County Sheriff's Office, which runs the jail, did not return a phone call or e-mail seeking comment Friday.



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