Forest fire ‘started by murderer who used blaze to hide the body’

A deadly wildfire that spread across a huge area of Northern California in August 2020 was started deliberately by an accused murderer who wanted to cover up his crime, police have alleged.

Victor Serrentino, from Vacaville in California, was arrested in September of last year after the body of Priscilla Castro, 32, was found in a nature reserve after the Markley Fire.

Investigators say that Ms Castro met Serriteno online and went to visit him at his home on August 16. Her partially-burned body was found on the shores of nearby Lake Berryessa on September 2 .

Serriteno has pleaded not guilty to her murder.

Police now say that Serriteno, 29, deliberately started the massive forest fire in order to conceal evidence of Ms Castro's murder.

The fire merged with a larger fire, the Hennessy Fire, and eventually became part of the 360-acre “LNU Lightning Complex” – one of the largest wildfires in the history of the state.

The LNU Lightning Complex fire is believed to have been started, as its name suggests, by a sustained lightning storm. It caused total of six deaths and destroyed about 1,500 homes and other buildings before it was eventually contained in October of last year.

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Sheriff Tom Ferrara told a news conference: "Based on an extensive eight-month investigation, we believe Serriteno deliberately set the Markley Fire in an attempt to conceal his crime”.

Two other people — Douglas Mai, 82, and Leon “James” Bone, 64 — were found dead in their homes after the Markley Fire.

Prosecutors say they plan to add two more murder charges and arson charges, to the murder charge Serriteno is already facing, said County District Attorney Krishna Abrams.

According to jail records, Serriteno remains in Solano County Jail without bail. He is scheduled to appear in court again on Friday, April 30 .

The California Fire Department said in a report that the 2020 wildfire season will be counted as one of the most severe in the history of the United States.

The 2020 Fire Siege, as the hugely destructive event was called, burned more acres in California than at any other time in recorded history. The “BigBurn” of 1910 is the only fire siege that is comparable, say Cal Fire.

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