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Deadly California Wildfire Was Intentionally Started To Cover Up Woman’s Murder, Say Authorities

by : Cameron Frew on : 03 May 2021 13:11
Deadly California Wildfire Was Intentionally Started To Cover Up Woman's Murder, Say AuthoritiesVacaville Police Department/PA Images

A deadly wildfire in northern California was started to cover up a woman’s murder, according to local law enforcement. 

The Markley Fire, one of a spate of blazes in the LNU Complex fires last summer, led to the deaths of Douglas Mai, 82, and Leon ‘James’ Bone, 64. It’s believed to have originated in the Stebbins-Cold Canyon area, near Lake Berryessa, according to the Solano County Sheriff’s Office.

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Despite being miles away from the lake, the two men passed away in their homes. Tragically, they were collateral damage in the alleged efforts of Victor Serriteno, 29, who is said to have started the wildfire to cover up the murder of 32-year-old Priscilla Castro.

Speaking at a news conference last week, Solano County Sheriff Tom Ferrara said as per CNN, ‘Based on an extensive eight-month long investigation, we believe Serriteno deliberately set the Markley Fire in an attempt to conceal this crime. Earlier this morning, sheriff’s detectives arrested Serriteno for additional charges including murder and arson.’

Serriteno was originally arrested by Vacaville Police in September, a month after the fire took place. He’s remained in custody in Solano County Jail ever since, but as per online records, he now has five new charges against him: two counts of first-degree murder and three separate counts of arson, separated by ‘inhabited structure, sentence enhancement and state emergency’.

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Serriteno met Castro for a date on August 16 last year. Two days later, his abandoned car was discovered. After law enforcement conducted a search, Castro’s burned body was found on September 2. She left behind a nine-year-old daughter.

Castro’s sister Jasmine told CBS Sacramento, ‘Loving, my sister would give you the shirt off her back. She would do anything for anybody.’

She added, ‘I knew there were ugly people in the world but I never knew they would do something to someone so close to us… we really feel for them because we know the pain, we know how they feel to lose the one you love. He doesn’t deserve to get away with not one bit of this.’

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PA Images PA Images

Castro’s mum Lisa Phelps Nunez also said, ‘You pull anything out of your mind to hope to see her again, that it didn’t really happen… she left us with her beautiful daughter and her smile has left an imprint on our heart, something we will hold dear. We will never forget.’

The Markley fire became the fifth-largest blaze in the state’s history after merging with the LNU Lightning Complex Fire, taking the lives of six people and destroying 363,220 acres of land.

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Cameron Frew

After graduating from Glasgow Caledonian University with an NCTJ and BJTC-accredited Multimedia Journalism degree, Cameron ventured into the world of print journalism at The National, while also working as a freelance film journalist on the side, becoming an accredited Rotten Tomatoes critic in the process. He's now left his Scottish homelands and taken up residence at UNILAD as a journalist.

Topics: News, California, Murder, Now, US, wildfire

Credits

CNN and 1 other
  1. CNN

    A deadly California wildfire was set to cover up a woman's murder, authorities say

  2. CBS Sacramento

    ‘It Just Tore The Wound Open Again’: Priscilla Castro’s Family Relives Nightmare After Alleged Killer Arrested For Deadly Solano County Fire