A deadly wildfire that ripped through northern California last year is now believed to have been set intentionally to cover up a murder, officials said Wednesday.
The Markley fire, which began in August in Solano County and eventually merged into the massive LNU Lightning Complex blaze, killed two people in their homes: Douglas Mai, 82, and Leon “James” Bone, 64.
But Mai and Bone were actually the third murder victims of another man, Victor Serriteno, according to authorities.
"We believe Serriteno deliberately set the Markley Fire in an attempt to conceal his crime," Solano County Sheriff Tom Ferrara said in Wednesday a press conference.
Serriteno, 29, had already been accused of killing 32-year-old Priscilla Castro on Aug. 16, 2020. He was arrested and charged with her murder in September and has been in jail ever since.
Castro, who lived in Vallejo, disappeared after going to Vacaville for a date with Serriteno last August, according to CBS Sacramento. Her burned body was found almost a month later near Lake Berryessa, in the area where the Markley fire was started on Aug. 18.
Serriteno now faces additional charges of arson and murder for the deaths of Mai and Bone, Solano County District Attorney Krishna Abrams said Wednesday.
He is expected to appear in court on Friday, jail records show.
Castro was a loving person who "would do anything for anybody," sister Jasmine Castro told CBS Sacramento. She was the mother of a 9-year-old child and dreamed of eventually opening her own hair salon.
“We really feel for them because we know the pain, we know how they feel to lose the one you love,” said Jasmine. “He doesn’t deserve to get away with not one bit of this.”
Learning her sister's alleged killer is also now accused of killing two others "tore the wound open again," Jasmine said.
“We really feel for them because we know the pain, we know how they feel to lose the one you love,” she said. “He doesn’t deserve to get away with not one bit of this.”
Bone, the 64-year-old victim, lived alone and was visually impaired. He didn't have running water, electricity, or a phone, and lived on the property where he grew up according to NBC Bay Area.
Neighbors remembered him as a man who would take long walks and wave to everyone he passed. "He'd always be on the road, walking, big smile, nice wave, really friendly man," one neighbor told KCRA.
Mai, 82, loved the outdoors, and moved to Northern California in 1977 to be closer to nature, according to an obituary. He served in the Navy, worked as a police officer, and was an assistant scoutmaster in the Boy Scouts.
"He never missed going to the end of the driveway to pick up his paper, returning to a cup of coffee and to work his daily crossword, while the cats walked on his paper and the dog laid at his feet," the obituary states. "He loved and was loved by all his family and friends, whether lifelong or just meeting in the grocery line."