California wildfire that killed 2 was started to cover up murder, officials say
A 2020 wildfire in Northern California that killed two people was intentionally set to cover up a murder, officials said Wednesday.
The Markley Fire was set near a dam in Solano County where the burned body of Priscilla Castro, 32, was found, according to the Solano County sheriff's office and Vacaville police.
Two other people — Douglas Mai, 82, and Leon “James” Bone, 64 — were found dead from that fire in their homes, Sheriff Tom Ferrara said at a news conference.
Victor Serriteno was arrested by Vacaville police in September and charged with murder in Castro's death, and prosecutors will file to add two more murder charges and arson charges, the district attorney said.
"Based on an extensive eight-month investigation, we believe Serriteno deliberately set the Markley Fire in an attempt to conceal his crime," Ferrara said.
The Markley Fire began Aug. 18, and Castro's burned body was found in a rural area near Lake Berryessa the next month, Vacaville police have said.
Investigators think Castro, of Vallejo, went to Vacaville to meet Serriteno on Aug. 16. She was never heard from again, police said.
Online court records show Serriteno is represented by a public defender but do not appear to identify an attorney by name.
The Markley Fire merged with a larger fire, the Hennessy Fire, which was eventually considered part of the massive "LNU Lightning Complex."
That larger complex of fires was a result of two days of lightning strikes and is considered one of the largest wildfires in California history, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, also known as Cal Fire.
The LNU Complex burned more than 363,000 acres across five counties, destroyed almost 1,500 structures, and is blamed in six deaths.
That LNU complex was fully contained in early October. It burned in Lake, Napa, Sonoma, Yolo and Solano counties.
Cal Fire said in a report that the 2020 fire season will be counted as one of the most severe in the history of the United States.
In California, the "2020 Fire Siege" burned 4.2 million acres; killed 31 people, including three firefighters; and destroyed more than 9,200 structures.