Los Angeles, CA (July 29, 2021)—More than three years after setting fire to a packed recording studio, Efrem Zimbalist Demery, 31, pleaded no contest yesterday to two counts of murder and one count of arson. He was sentenced to 50 years-to-life in state prison.
“Although the life sentence in this case does not bring back the victims, it does hold the defendant accountable for his deadly actions,” Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón said. “My deepest sympathies go out to the families, whose lives were forever altered by this atrocious crime.”
On the morning of April 14, 2018, roughly 15 people were working inside Top Notch Recordings on N. Cahuenga Boulevard in Studio City when the fire broke out shortly before 7 A.M. Using security camera footage from the facility and area businesses, police later determined that Demery bought gasoline and a lighter across the street at a Chevron station, and then returned to the facility. Outside a room that the two victims, Devaughn Carter, 28, and Michael Pollard, 30, were sleeping in, Demery poured gas down the studio hallway, set it ablaze and ran.
While most people inside the 24-hour facility managed to get out, Carter and Pollard perished in the flames, and both a 15-year-old girl and a man in his 20s sustained life-altering heavy burns. More than 80 firefighters were called to the scene to put out the fire, an effort that took nearly half an hour.
Once police determined that they were looking for Demery, the suspect was detained that night during a stop for a traffic violation. He was already known for a criminal record that included selling counterfeit goods, dealing in stolen property, burglary and more. According to police, Demery had been involved in a confrontation with the two victims the day before he killed them.
Top Notch Recordings never reopened.