(NEW YORK) — On Aug. 16, 2020, Priscilla Castro, a 32-year-old from Vallejo, California, headed to nearby Vacaville for a first date with a man she met on a dating app, according to police.
She was never seen again, Vacaville police said.
Now her date, who was charged with murder, is also accused of setting a wildfire to cover up the crime — which ignited a massive blaze that claimed two more lives, officials said.
Here’s how the alleged crimes unfolded
Castro’s family reported her missing after they were unable to reach her for two days, police said. Castro’s car was found abandoned in Vacaville on Aug. 18, police said.
Castro’s burned body was recovered in the Stebbins-Cold Canyon area.
Castro’s alleged date, Victor Serriteno, 29, was arrested for her murder in September and has been in custody since then, the Solano County Sheriff’s Office said.
Castro’s cause of death has not been released and a motive is still under investigation, Vacaville Police Lt. Chris Polen told ABC News.
On Aug. 18, 2020, the Markley Fire erupted within a “matter of feet, yards” to where Castro’s body was found, Polen said.
Two people were found dead in their Solano County homes as a result of the fire: 82-year-old Douglas Mai and 64-year-old Leon “James” Bone, the sheriff’s office said.
The cause of the Markley Fire has now been deemed arson, officials said Wednesday.
Investigators believe “Serriteno deliberately set the Markley Fire in an attempt to conceal his crime,” the sheriff’s office said.
The Markley Fire led to major damage. It merged with the Hennessey Fire, which was later included in the LNU Lightning Complex — a group of wildfires covering five Northern California counties.
“The fire had devastating impacts on so many people in our community,” Solano County District Attorney Krishna Abrams said at a Wednesday news conference.
The LNU Lightning Complex burned 363,220 acres in Napa, Sonoma, Lake, Yolo and Solano counties from August to October, according to Cal Fire.
The LNU Lightning Complex killed a total of six people and injured five, according to Solano County. The fires destroyed 1,491 structures and damaged 232 structures. At the time it was contained, the LNU Lighting Complex was the fourth-largest wildfire in California history, according to Solano County.
On Wednesday, Serriteno was booked on arson and additional counts of murder, officials said.
“We have filed special circumstances in this case … alleging that the defendant committed arson-murder and that he committed multiple murders,” Abrams said.
Serriteno has not entered a plea on the initial murder charge. A preliminary hearing was set for May 17. Serriteno is set to appear in court Friday to be arraigned on the new charges, Abrams said.
Serriteno’s public defender, Felicia Carrington, told ABC News, “There is a presumption of innocence for the accused. These are solely allegations, Mr. Serriteno is presumed innocent and we look forward to vigorously litigating these allegations.”
Castro, who dreamed of owning her own hair salon, left behind a 9-year-old daughter, Sacramento station KOVR reported.
“I knew there were ugly people in the world but I never knew they would do something to someone so close to us,” Castro’s sister, Jasmine Castro, told KOVR. “He doesn’t deserve to get away with not one bit of this.”
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