Braulio Valenzuela-Villanueva is a registered sex offender who lives in the River Park Trailer Court. In the trailer next door live two women and eight children.
Early Saturday morning, the combustible living arrangement exploded and ended with the arrest of Valenzuela-Villanueva. He is charged with attempted second-degree murder, arson and a hate crime.
Miami-Dade police say a video camera caught Valenzuela-Villanueva setting fire to a mattress that was leaning against the women’s trailer.
Though no one was injured, the family had to be rousted from bed by neighbors who were awakened by the smoke. Police said Valenzuela-Villanueva and his neighbors had an “ongoing feud.”
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“Although he did not admit setting the fire, he stated that he despised the two adult victims for the simple fact that they were lesbians,” according to the arrest affidavit. “According to the defendant, every time he saw them kissing he felt a deep repugnance and in his opinion, they did not deserve children.”
Last year, a large group of sex offenders were removed from the trailer park, 2260 NW 27th Ave., and sent to a warehouse district just outside Hialeah. State probation officers had determined the men were living at the trailer park illegally because of a Miami-Dade County law that doesn’t allow offenders within 2,500 feet of a park, school, daycare or playground where children gather.
On Wednesday, police said that law only applies to sex offenders or predators on probation, and that wasn’t the case with Valenzuela-Villanueva.
The entire episode befuddled Norma Beteta Fonseca, mother of the eight children between the ages of 3 and 18. Fonseca and her partner, Latanya Dinsy, live in the small one-bedroom trailer that only has a living room and a kitchen. Fonseca said she woke up with the fire raging and neighbors yelling, grabbed an older daughter, and the two of them began shoveling children out the door.
Fonseca said despite police calling her relationship with Valenzuela-Villanueva an ongoing fued, she’s never had an issue with the man. The mattress that burned was a gift, she said. She also said Valenzuela-Villanueva approached her Sunday, a day after the fire, and asked her if she’d seen the video police used to identify him. He was arrested on Monday.
“The reason they say is because I’m a lesbian. But this is not an excuse for me. I never had a problem with him,” Fonseca said. “I don’t understand. This is crazy. I don’t understand why.”
Florida Department of Law Enforcement records show Valenzuela-Villanueva, 73, is no stranger to police. Monday’s arrest was at least his 10th since 1994. Other charges include burglary, grand theft and retail theft. The state records also show he was first arrested for fondling a child in 1994, but the charges were dropped.
Then in September 1999, Valenzuela-Villanueva was charged with kidnapping, false imprisonment and indecent exposure to a child under 13. He was later charged with molesting a child in 2006, and arrested again in 2011 for failing to register as a sex offender.
Police believe Valenzuela-Villanueva set fire to the mattress at 4:25 a.m. Saturday, then hurried back to his trailer. As the fire burned, police said, he casually watched it, and only grabbed a hose to douse the flames at the insistence of neighbors.
Valenzuela-Villanueva remains at the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center.