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Massive Northern California Wildfire Was Set to Cover Up a Murder, Say Police YouTube via ABC10
YouTube via ABC 10

On August 16, 32-year-old Priscilla Castro left her home in Vallejo, California, and headed to Vacaville for a date with Victor Serriteno, who she’d met online. She never returned home again. Two days later, a wildfire near Lake Berryessa in the Stebbins-Cold Canyon area, according to the Solano County Sheriff’s Office.

Dubbed the “Markley Fire”, the wildfire killed two men: 82-year-old Douglas Mai and 64-year-old Leon “James” Bone. The Markley Fire would eventually combine with the Hennessey Fire before becoming a part of the LNU Lightning Complex Fire, one of the largest wildfires in California history. The LNU Lighting Complex Fire tore through the area north of San Francisco, killing six people and destroying nearly 1,500 buildings in Sonoma, Lake, Napa, Yolo, and Solano counties, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection  (Cal Fire) reported.

These two incidents — Castro’s first date with Serriteno and the deadly wildfire — may have occurred on separate days and miles apart, but authorities believe the two are directly connected.

The Hunt for Pricilla Castro’s Murderer

“Based on an extensive eight-month-long investigation, we believe Serriteno deliberately set the Markley Fire in an attempt to conceal this crime,” Solano County Sheriff Tom Ferrara said at a news conference Wednesday. “Earlier this morning, Sheriff’s detectives arrested Serriteno for additional charges including murder and arson.”

The eight-month investigation kicked off last year when Castro’s family in Oakland reported her missing. Hours later, Priscilla Castro’s car was found abandoned two days after her date with Serriteno.  After nearly a month of searching for Castro, Vacaville police officers were able to track down Castro’s using a combination of cellphone records and other data. Her burned body was found by Lake Berryessa, near the area where the Markley Fire started. The same month, Serriteno was arrested and charged with Castro’s death.

Authorities Connect Pricilla Castro’s Murder with Markley Fire

Through the extensive investigation, detectives were able to connect the two events, concluding that the source of the fire was arson and the deaths were homicides, according to the Sheriff’s Office. “Based on the extensive investigation, we believe Serriteno deliberately set the Markley Fire in an attempt to conceal his crime,” the office said in a statement.

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According to Solano County District Attorney Krishna Abrams, the Vacaville man will be charged with arson charges and two more counts of murder for the Markley Fire victims. Serriteno has already pleaded not guilty to Castro’s murder. He is set to appear in court on Friday afternoon to face the additional arson and murder charges, Abrams said.

Watch: Tragic Fire Kills Over 50 Dogs Including 18 Puppies

A lover, fighter, and freelance writer, María Cristina hunts down buzzworthy stories by day and trains to be a championship kickboxer by night. As a full-time digital nomad, she's lived everywhere from Chicago to Mexico City to Medellín to Bali -- but Austin, Texas will always be home.
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