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Pleasanton arsonist faces three years in prison

Deonna Zuffa pleaded no contest, will undergo psychiatric evaluation

The woman charged with torching her East Angela Street home in 2008 is in custody awaiting sentencing in May.

Deona Zuffa, 43, pleaded no contest -- admitting there was enough evidence to convict her but not admitting to the crime -- on March 9 in Superior Court in Hayward. She faces up to three years in prison for the crime.

Zuffa was ordered to undergo evaluation while waiting to be sentenced. Those evaluations will be used by Judge Stuart Hing to determine how long she'll serve.

Although she was initially charged with arson, possession of flammable material with intent to set fire, and forgery, a grand jury indictment in January brought in two charges: arson and possession of flammable liquids.

It took investigators two years to bring charges, although Zuffa was home alone at about 11 a.m. on Dec. 8, 2008, when she ran from the house with her clothes and shoes on fire. Police who happened to be in the area rushed to help her.

A police report said "substantial physical and financial evidence was collected which indicated Zuffa was responsible for the arson."

Police concluded that an accelerant had been used to start the fire. The motive appeared to have been financial gain; Zuffa and her husband Keith filed for bankruptcy in June 2008, six months before the fire and a notice of foreclosure eviction had been posted on her front door shortly before 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.

Neighbors said they heard a loud explosion that shook the ground, followed by the fire that left the single-story home a total loss and damaged two nearby homes.

Pleasanton police worked with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department to investigate the fire.

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Truth
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2012 at 9:12 pm

Great work PPD!......again.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Huh
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2012 at 9:57 pm

So, after reading this article several times, I'm still wondering why the grand jury would uphold the original charges of arson and possession of flammable materials, yet drop the charge of intent to set a fire...? Or is that part of the article just poorly written and vague?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by PW Reader
a resident of Birdland
on Mar 13, 2012 at 11:30 am

Huh, it looks like the grand jury only dropped the forgery charge, not the charge of intent to set a fire.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Huh
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2012 at 12:25 pm

"Although she was initially charged with arson, possession of flammable material with intent to set fire, and forgery, a grand jury indictment in January brought in two charges: arson and possession of flammable liquids."

@PW Reader: thanks for attempting to clarify; I did see that the forgery charge was dropped, but was unclear whether legally speaking, "possession of flammable material with intent to set fire" was different than simply "possession of flammable liquids".

It seemed to me that anyone could be "in possession of flammable liquids" since most of us have gasoline on hand for our mowers, or paint thinner in our garage.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Angus
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2012 at 8:51 am

The important word is "intent". The lady used the flammables to torch her home, she planned the act. Mere possesion of such fluids is, of course, quite benign and legal. Using them to cause deliberate damage or harm is crossing the line. As to her sentence of three years? Seems a bit short for having placed her neighbors, and their homes, safety, and property in jeopardy.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by lynn
a resident of Carlton Oaks
on Mar 15, 2012 at 8:48 pm

This sentence is way too light. Do you have any idea how many people she could have killed with this stunt? What about the first responder's who risked their lives? What about the neighbors whose homes were damaged. I would have thought she'd see at least a decade for what she did.

And yes, good job PPD and LPFD.


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