In a case that took more than two years to investigate, the former co-owner of a home on Angela Street has been charged with arson.
Deonna Zuffa, 42, was arrested at about 12:20 p.m. Tuesday by Pleasanton police on charges of arson, possession of flammable material with intent to set fire and one charge of forgery.
The fire, at 839 E. Angela was labeled "suspicious" at the time by Pleasanton police Sgt. Jim Knox.
Zuffa was the only one home when the 11 a.m. explosion and fire on Dec. 8, 2008 sent her fleeing from the house, engulfed in flames. Her clothes and shoes were still on fire when police who happened to be in the neighborhood rushed to her aid and extinguished the flames.
Neighbors at the time said they heard a loud explosion that shook the ground, followed by the fire that left the single-story home located across the street from St. Augustine Catholic Church a total loss. Two nearby homes were also damaged in the fire.
Zuffa received second and third-degree burns over 60 percent of her body. She was treated at St. Francis Memorial Hospital's Bothin Burn Center in San Francisco but has since recovered, a police report said.
In conjunction with local police, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and members of the Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department investigated the fire, sifting through the remnants to uncover evidence that the fire was deliberately set. Knox said it took two years for police to be able to build a case that linked Zuffa to the fire and for officials from the Alameda County District Attorney's office to review it.
Police concluded that an accelerant had been used to start the fire, and "substantial physical and financial evidence was collected which indicated Zuffa was responsible for the arson," the report said.
The motive appears to have been financial gain, according to the report. Zuffa and her husband Keith filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy in June, 2008, six months before the fire, according to public records. Records also show the home was sold for $75,000 in a foreclosure sale on Sept. 30 to Marilyn and Richard Greenberg in the name of the Greenberg Trust.
Deonna Zuffa is also listed as a defendant in a civil case filed by her husband and financial institutions, claiming that she forged his name. That case has not been resolved.
The investigation concluded that Zuffa acted on her own, without the knowledge of other members of the family, according to the police report.
Police said the Zuffa's two dogs had been taken to a groomer the day of the fire. Keith Zuffa was at work and their children were in school.
Deonna Zuffa is currently living in Lincoln, Calif.; she waived extradition and was booked at the Santa Rita Jail.
Days after the fire, a fund was set up by a local middle schooler, Andrew Ochoa, to help the family, which lost all of its belongings. Pleasanton Middle School spearheaded the fundraising campaign for the family, which also includes sons Justin, a junior in 2008 at Amador Valley High School, and Devon, who was at the time a seventh-grader at Pleasanton middle. More than $3,595 was raised, and the family also received more than $2,000 in gift cards.
The remnants of the home remained in place and fenced off until April of this year, when the house was finally razed. Wrecking crews demolished the house but left the undamaged foundation and utility connections in place. It's expected the lot will be sold and a new home constructed on the site.