TUCSON, Ariz. - A man who has spent more than four decades in prison for a Tucson hotel fire that killed 29 people, including some who jumped from windows to escape the searing heat, is expected to be released Tuesday as part of a deal with prosecutors.
Louis Cuen Taylor of Tucson was convicted of murder as a teen but has maintained his innocence in the December 1970 fire at the Pioneer Hotel.
He is scheduled to plead no contest to murder in an agreement that sets aside his original conviction and gives him credit for time served, the Arizona Daily Star reported.
The fire came during a Christmas party for employees of an aircraft company and left many guests trapped in their rooms.
The building had no sprinkler system, exits were locked to prevent theft, and fire truck ladders were too short to reach the higher floors. Those factors led some people to jump from windows to their deaths. Others burned to death in their rooms. Most died of carbon-monoxide poisoning while waiting for rescue.
In total, 29 lives were lost to the blaze, including one victim who died months later in a hospital.
Taylor was in the hotel that night watching the festivities. After the fire broke out, he and a hotel custodian tried to extinguish the blaze, then Taylor helped some of the trapped and injured guests escape. Hours later, he was taken into custody, interviewed by police without parental consent and charged with starting the fire. He was convicted in 1972 and sentenced to 28 concurrent life terms.
In October, attorneys with the Arizona Justice Project, a volunteer legal group that attempts to evaluate cases on behalf of inmates who believe they were wrongfully convicted, asked a court to dismiss the case or hold an evidentiary hearing.