California Man Charged With Hiding Murder Using 2020 Wildfire That Killed 2

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California officials said on Wednesday that a wildfire in the northern part of the state that killed two people in 2020 was allegedly started on purpose to cover up a murder scene.

The Solano County sheriff’s office and Vacaville police said they found the body of 32-year-old Priscilla Castro near a dam in Solano County where the Markley Fire was started.

Hiding Murder

During a news conference, Sheriff Tom Ferrara said they found the bodies of 82-year-old Douglas Mai and 64-year-old Leon “James” Bone inside their homes at the site of the fire.

In September, Vacaville police arrested Victor Serriteno and charged him with murder for Castro’s death. The district attorney said prosecutors will file to add two more charges of murder and arson.

“Based on an extensive eight-month investigation, we believe Serriteno deliberately set the Markley Fire in an attempt to conceal his crime,” said Ferrara. The wildfire started on August 18, 2020. Vacaville police said Castro’s burned body was discovered in a rural area near Lake Berryessa in September 2020.

Investigators believe Castro was set to meet with Serriteno on August 16. However, the victim was never heard from or seen again afterward, said police.

The Markley Fire later combined with a much larger fire, the Hennessy Fire, which became part of the “LNU Lightning Complex.” It was the result of two days of lightning strikes. Officials considered the incident one of California history’s largest wildfires, NBC News reported.

The LNU Complex ravaged through more than 363,000 acres across five separate counties, destroying almost 1,500 structures, and being responsible for six deaths. In a report, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) said the 2020 fire season was recorded as one of the most destructive in the history of the United States.

Danielle Joyce Ong

Danielle is a local journalist with a passion for exploring stories related to crime and politics. When Danielle isn't busy writing or reading, she is usually exploring the great outdoors and all the hiking trails in the Bay.