http://pleasantonweekly.com/print/story/print/2011/02/18/woman-charged-in-angela-street-arson-free-on-bail


Pleasanton Weekly

News - February 18, 2011

Woman charged in Angela Street arson free on bail

Deonna Zuffa pleas not guilty to charges

by Glenn Wohltmann

The woman charged with setting her Angela Street home afire more than two years ago has pleaded not guilty and is free on $50,000 bail, according to William Denny, the senior assistant district attorney handling the case.

Deonna Zuffa, 42, was arrested at in December by Pleasanton police on charges of arson, possession of flammable material with intent to set fire, and one charge of forgery.

"The district attorney did not oppose the reduction based on a new letter from a treating physician stating that Ms. Zuffa is scheduled for surgery and that she needs to attend ongoing treatment for burn injuries," Denny said in an email. "The defendant posted bail and is living with her parents as a condition of bail release."

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 said at the time 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% 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 in December that 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 had 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 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.

The case is set for a pretrial hearing in March.

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