Man sentenced to 20 years for arson and murder

Thirteen years after a Pennsylvania man set his house on fire with his wife and three children inside, killing his wife, a Lancaster County judge sentenced him to 20 years in prison. Carlos Montalvo-Rivera, 55, was found guilty of first-degree murder, arson, risking catastrophe, and three counts of attempted criminal homicide for the December 2010 blaze.

During the trial, prosecutors revealed that Montalvo-Rivera had tied himself up in an attempt to appear as a victim of the crime rather than the perpetrator.

Assistant District Attorney Christine Wilson called the crime “absolutely brutal and heinous” during the sentencing hearing. She added, “Even though the defendant refuses to admit accountability for his actions, he’s been found guilty by a jury of his peers.”

Montalvo-Rivera had claimed that intruders had broken into his home, killed his wife, Olga Sanchez-Reyes, and set his home on fire. However, a nine-year investigation proved otherwise, and Montalvo-Rivera was arrested and charged in 2019.

Prosecutors argued that Montalvo-Rivera killed his wife, poured gasoline up the stairs in their North Plum Street home up to her bedroom, set the home on fire while their three children were on the third floor, and escaped out a door on the first floor. He then tied himself up to play the part of a victim. Montalvo-Rivera’s eight- and nine-year-old daughters were transported to a hospital in critical condition after the fire, and his 13-year-old son also received treatment.

During the hearing, Judge Dennis Reinaker criticized Montalvo-Rivera’s “lame story” and said, “The jury didn’t believe you, and I think that’s how it should be.” The victim’s family expressed relief that justice had finally been served.

A neighbor, Jonathan Santiago, was hailed as a hero for rescuing two of Montalvo-Rivera’s children from the burning building. Santiago overheard the children screaming for help from the roof of the house and recruited some neighbors to help him reach the roof of a nearby home through an attic window. From there, he was able to scale four adjacent roofs to reach and rescue the children.