File Photo An alleged meth house where three children died in an explosion, is being preped for demolition. The home is located at 1197 Spring Mill Drive at the intersection of Five Forks Trickum Road in Lilburn.
LAWRENCEVILLE — The mother of the three children killed in a 2011 meth-fueled Lilburn house fire entered a plea deal with Gwinnett County prosecutors Wednesday.
Just a few days before they were scheduled for trial, Neibi Brito and co-defendant Joseph Perez entered guilty pleas to charges case stemming from the Feb. 17, 2011, explosion that killed Brito’s children, ages 3 years, 4 years and 18 months.
Chief Deputy Assistant District Attorney Lisa Jones said that, all told, each defendant pleaded to six counts of voluntary manslaughter, two counts of trafficking methamphetamine and single counts of manufacturing methamphetamine and manufacturing methamphetamine in the presence of children.
Jones said both defendants were sentenced to 30 years in prison to be followed by 20 years of supervised release — in addition to mandatory fines totalling about $1.3 million. The plea knocked down murder charges in the original indictment to voluntary manslaughter and avoided the possibility of life sentences.
“Ultimately (Brito’s) attorney had asked if we would consider that about two weeks ago,” Jones said. “I think the realization of what (potential sentences) they were facing set in.”
Perez has admitted to helping cook and wash methamphetamine at the Spring Mill Drive home where Brito, his cousin by marriage, lived. On the day of the fire, he reportedly carried her outside while the young children remained upstairs.
The kids were pulled from a second-story window, but all three eventually succumbed to burns and smoke inhalation. Brito is not believed to have actually helped cook drugs; she has, however, “admitted that she was aware of what was going on in the house,” Jones said.
Brito and Perez were scheduled to face a Gwinnett County judge for trial next week, Jones said.
Even with Wednesday’s pleas, one missing link remains in the case.
Ivan Gonzalez, who lived with Brito and fled the Lilburn home in the minutes immediately after the explosion, has not yet been detained. Gonzalez is believed to have been the head honcho in the meth manufacturing operation and, according to Jones, the “most culpable” in the case.
Detectives originally expressed fears that Gonzalez may have fled to his native Mexico.