Man Accused of Murdering Woman He Met Online, then Covering Crime by Setting Wildfire that Killed 2

The burned body of Priscilla Castro, 32, was recovered after California's Markley Fire, which also killed Douglas Mai, 82, and Leon "James" Bone, 64

Priscilla Castro
Priscilla Castro. Photo: Vacaville Police Department

A California man already charged with the murder of a woman last August is now likely facing additional charges of arson and murder after the deaths of two men who died in a wildfire he allegedly set to cover up her killing.

The latest revelations, announced Wednesday in a news conference by the Solano County Sheriff's Office, have caused the family of the first victim to relive the pain of losing 32-year-old mother Priscilla Castro.

"I knew there were ugly people in the world but I never knew they would do something to someone so close to us," Priscilla's sister, Jasmine Castro, told CBS Sacramento.

The additional victims — Douglas Mai, 82, and Leon "James" Bone, 64 — both lived in the path of what became known as the Markley Fire, which merged with other blazes last August to become the LNU Lightning Complex fire, one of the largest in California's history.

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Only recently did authorities conclude the Markley Fire was started by arson, Solano County Sheriff's Lt. Jackson Harris said at the news conference, reports the Times-Herald.

Castro was reported missing to Oakland police on Aug. 18 after her family had been unable to reach her the previous two days, during which time the fire broke out, Vacaville police said in a news release.

Investigators discovered her abandoned car in Vacaville, and learned that she'd come to Vacaville on the evening of Aug. 16 for a date arranged online with Vacaville resident Victor Serriteno, after which she was not seen or heard from again.

Victor Serriteno
Victor Serriteno, at right. Vacaville Police Dept.

Authorities who relied on cell phone records and analytics software began a focused search for Castro on Sept. 2 and recovered her burned body near the fire's origins in a rural area of Solano County near Lake Berryessa.

Based on multiple interviews, cell phone records, surveillance camera footage and additional evidence, police tracked down Serriteno and arrested him in Santa Clara on Sept. 11, a day after Castro's remains were identified. Authorities have not revealed how Castro died.

Serriteno, 29, was jailed with no bail on a charge of homicide, and has pleaded not guilty to Castro's murder.

"Based on the extensive investigation, we believe Serriteno deliberately set the Markley Fire in an attempt to conceal his crime," the Solano County Sheriff's Office said in a statement, reports NBC Bay Area.

The additional Markley Fire victims, Mai and Bone, both were found dead in their homes in unincorporated Solano County, according to the sheriff's office.

Solano County District Attorney Krishna Abrams said at the news conference that Serriteno would be charged with their murders, along with arson, and would be arraigned Friday.

"The fire had devastating impacts on so many people in our community," Abrams said.

Bone was visually impaired, lived alone, didn't have a phone, and relied on in-person communication as he walked for miles and waved to everyone who passed, his neighbors told KCRA after his death.

"I've been going out here since I was a little kid, so he'd always be out on the road walking, big smile, nice wave — really friendly man," said Nathan Guerrero, who grew up in the area.

Mai was a father of two and former law enforcement officer, "an avid outdoorsman, boater, handyman, full of fun facts with an unsurpassed dry sense of humor," according to his obituary. "As an altruistic friend and member of the community, you could always count on Doug if you needed to borrow a tool or just needed a shoulder. 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."

"We really feel for them because we know the pain, we know how they feel to lose the one you love," said Castro's sister. "[Serriteno] doesn't deserve to get away with not one bit of this."

Castro's mother, Lisa Phelps Nunez, told CBS Sacramento that her daughter, who dreamed of one day owning her own hair salon, "left us with her beautiful daughter and her smile has left an imprint on our heart, something we will hold dear. We will never forget."

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