According to a claim made by officials on Wednesday, a 2020 Northern California wildfire was intentionally set to try and cover up a murder.
That blaze, dubbed the Markley Fire, ended up killing two other people — 64-year-old Leon Bone and 82-year-old Douglas Mai. As a result the man who is alleged to have started it, Victor Serriteno, will have two new murder charges filed against him. He’ll also be facing an arson charge.
The fire was set near a dam. The burned body of Priscilla Castro was located in the same area. In September, Serriteno was arrested by Vacaville police. He was charged with Castro’s death.
“Based on an extensive eight-month investigation, we believe Serriteno deliberately set the Markley Fire in an attempt to conceal his crime,” said Sheriff Tom Ferrara during a Wednesday press conference.
The fire first started on August 18. Castro’s body was found in September.
Case investigators believe that Castro met Serriteno on August 16. Police say that was the last date she was heard from.
The Markley Fire would go on to merge with a larger one, the Hennessy Fire, and they would both eventually be considered LNU Lightning Complex fires. That larger blaze lasted until October 2 and is currently considered the fourth-largest fire in state history.
Cal Fire went on to say in a report that the 2020 fire season was one of the worst in the history of the U.S. In all, it burned 4.2 million acres, led to 31 deaths, and destroyed more than 9,200 structures.