Vacaville, CA

San Francisco Bay Area Sheriff says a wildfire was set to cover up a double murder

Ed Walsh

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Photo of arrest of double murder arson suspect Victor Serriteno, 29, of VacavilleVacaville Police Department via Facebook

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Map shows path of wildfire that the Solano County Sheriff says was set to cover up a double murderSolano County Sheriff

A San Francisco Bay Area Sheriff says that a willdfire last year was set intentionally to cover up a double murder.

An 8-month long joint investigation between the Solano County Sheriff’s Office and Cal-Fire stated that the source of the 2020 Markley Fire was arson, and the two resulting deaths from that fire are now considered homicides.

In a statement issued Wendesday, the Solano County Sheriff's Office stated, "The Markley Fire started on August 18th, 2020 in the Stebbins-Cold Canyon area and merged with the Hennessey Fire which was later included in the overall LNU Lightning Complex. Two fire victims were discovered deceased in their homes in unincorporated Solano County as a result of the fire: 82-year old Douglas Mai, in the 7400 block of Pleasant’s Valley Road; and 64-year old Leon “James” Bone, in the 7800 block of English Hills Road. Additionally, the body of missing person Priscilla Castro was discovered in the Stebbins-Cold Canyon area resulting in the arrest of Victor Serriteno by the Vacaville Police Department in mid-September of 2020. Serriteno was charged with murder and has been in custody since his arrest.

"Based on the extensive investigation, we believe Serriteno deliberately set the Markley Fire in an attempt to conceal his crime. Earlier this morning, Sheriff’s Detectives arrested Serriteno for additional charges including murder and arson.

"Our continued condolences go out to the families affected by these crimes and we hope that this arrest can provide some degree of solace. We also want to thank our public safety partners as this arrest would not have been possible without the cooperation of Cal-Fire and the Vacaville Police Department.

"Many other fire victims may be wondering how this could affect them or their claims. The current recovery effort is not in any way affected by this announcement. Solano County, State and FEMA recovery efforts will continue unchanged until completion. You are welcome to contact your insurance company if you have questions about your claim. If you are getting assistance from FEMA, you can call the FEMA helpline at 1-800-621-3362. If you are receiving additional assistance, you are welcome to contact those programs individually. Though again, this investigation and arrest will have no impact on insurance claims or fire recovery assistance programs."

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Murder victim Priscilla CastroVacaville Police Department via Facebook

In a press release following arrest of Victor Serriteno, 29, of Vacaville in September, Vacaville Poice issued the following statement:

"An abandoned car found in Vacaville tied to the tragic disappearance and murder of 32 year old Priscilla Castro of Vallejo.

"On the evening of August 18th, Officers were called to the 100 block of Bush Street for a report of an abandoned car. The car was found to be associated with Priscilla Castro - reported missing to the Oakland Police Department hours earlier after her family was unable to reach her for the last two days. With her cell phone off and no activity on her social media account, her disappearance spurred the deployment of detectives that began an intense investigation in search of answers.

"Over the course of the coming days, Detectives learned that Priscilla came to Vacaville on the evening of August 16th for a prearranged date with Vacaville resident Victor Serriteno (28). Following that meet, Priscilla was not seen or heard from again.

"Utilizing cell phone records and analytics software, Detectives started a grid search on September 2nd in a rural area of Solano County near Lake Berryessa. During their search they located the remains of a burned body. After the collection and analysis of evidence on scene, it was confirmed on the evening of September 10th that the body was in fact Priscilla Castro. The Solano County Coroner’s Office ruled the death a homicide, however, the exact cause of death is still under investigation.

"Following the culmination of several interviews, the review of cell phone records, city camera footage and additional evidence; Vacaville Detectives arrested Serriteno after tracking him down in the city of Santa Clara earlier this morning. He was booked into Solano County Jail on a no bail warrant for homicide.

"The suspicious circumstances surrounding the disappearance of Priscilla Castro has undoubtedly cast a dark shadow of turmoil over her loved ones during the last several weeks. It is with a heavy heart we bear this horrific news of this senseless death. Our thoughts are with Priscilla’s family during this difficult time."

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