OAKLAND, Calif. - Relatives and colleagues of the leader of the Oakland artists' colony where dozens died in a fire over the weekend say he saw himself as a kind of guru craved having followers but cared little for their well-being.
Forty-six-year-old Derick Ion Almena allegedly rented out living space illegally in the warehouse where the blaze erupted Friday night. The cause is under investigation and no one has been charged.
Acquaintances painted a devastating portrait of Almena and his longtime partner, Micah Allison.
They say that Almena ignored complaints about unsafe and unsanitary conditions at the building, that the couple used methamphetamine and other drugsand that they lost custody of their three children for several months.