UPDATED: Police recommend charges against woman in Angela Street house fire

Deonna Zuffa, 41, was only person home at time of explosion, suffering third-degree burns

Pleasanton police have recommended to the Alameda County District Attorney's office that they press charges against a woman involved in a house explosion last December on East Angela Street, the Pleasanton Weekly has learned.

Sgt. Jim Knox of the Pleasanton Police Department said police wrapped up their investigation "a few months ago" and sent the paperwork off to the DA's office for review. The DA will then make the decision on whether to charge Deonna Zuffa, 41, with causing the explosion, which resulted in a fire damaging her home and two neighboring properties.

Knox declined to comment on what specific evidence or information led police to make the determination that the incident was her fault, referring questions to the DA's office.

The home, located at 839 E. Angela Street, east of downtown, exploded Dec. 8 and quickly caught fire, with flames seen reaching as high as power poles above. Zuffa, who had lived in the home with her husband Keith and their two boys, was the only person home at the time. She was seen by neighbors fleeing from the house, her clothing lit on fire. Zuffa received second and third-degree burns to her body and was receiving care for several months at a San Francisco burn center.

The home, located across the street from St. Augustine Catholic Church, has largely remained in its charred state, save for some construction workers ripping out walls and removing debris, and has been rendered inhabitable and fenced off. Knox said the home has since been turned over to the homeowner's insurance company.

"We released it to the insurance company," Knox said. "It's up to them what to do with it."

Several months after the fire, police determined the incident was arson, but said little else.

The fire at the Zuffa home began at 11 a.m. Dec. 8. Neighbors said they heard a loud explosion that shook the ground, followed by the blaze that has left the single-story home a total loss. The Zuffa family's two dogs were not injured in the fire as they had been taken to a pet groomer, fire officials said.

Police have acknowledged that the Zuffa family owned muscle cars and go-karts and had gasoline containers stored in the garage, but declined to say whether the gasoline may have contributed to the explosion or fire.

Police have also declined to say where the fire started, a fast-burning blaze that also damaged two neighboring homes and displaced a second family. The investigation was prolonged because police had not been able to speak with Zuffa as she was recovering. Police, her family and hospital spokespeople have declined to give an update on her condition.

Zuffa and her husband Keith filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy in June 2008, according to public records. Records also show the home, at one time valued at nearly $1 million, was sold for $75,000 in a foreclosure sale on Sept. 30 to Marilyn and Richard Greenberg in the name of the Greenberg Trust.

Patsy and Frank DePiero were home on their couch next door having coffee when Patsy DePiero heard what she said sounded like "a bomb going off." The couple's daughter and two granddaughters who live with them were not home at the time.

"We went outside and (Zuffa) was laying in the middle of the street on fire," she said.

A couple of workers who were nearby rushed to Zuffa's aid to put out the flames and police arrived minutes later, DePiero said.

When told of the police department's decision to recommend charges, DePiero said she'll be happy when the case is finally completed and things can return to normal on their quiet street.

The DePieros sustained damage to their rafters and a back bedroom and master bathroom. They had to move out of the home for more than two months and file a claim through their own insurance, paying a $2,500 deductible that has still not been refunded, she said.

Despite the inconvenience the fire has left, DePiero said she's not happy hearing that Zuffa will face arson charges.

"It's surprising," she said. "I feel very sad for her."

According to neighbors, Zuffa had seemed to be in low spirits before the fire and seldom spoke to them unless approached. Neighbors also said Keith Zuffa hadn't been seen at the house for at least two months prior to the explosion. He's believed to be still living in the Pleasanton area with the youngest son, and Deonna Zuffa is said to be staying with family.

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Like this comment
Posted by uscgret
a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Nov 30, 2009 at 5:48 pm

uscgret is a registered user.

(Comment removed by Pleasanton Weekly Online staff as innuendo, hearsay or specific accusatory information unsupported by facts.)

Like this comment
Posted by Palmer
a resident of Downtown
on Nov 30, 2009 at 6:10 pm

Well I didnt know the zuffa's well but did share occasion conversations with them while out walking. Both seemed very pleasant and Mrs. Zuffa never appeared to be abused and they often walked together. In the occaional conversation they appeared to do many things as a family and always seemed to be smiling; none of the afforementioned low spirits were ever detected. Seems as though there is some very disoriented information being put out about Mr. Zuffa

Like this comment
Posted by LeVictoria
a resident of Castlewood Heights
on Nov 30, 2009 at 8:06 pm

Did it matter to anyone that she had 3 layers of clothes on when this happened? Did anyone notice that she packed her car with her belongings and parked it across the street at the church? And conveniently the dogs are taken to the groomers on a Monday? How convenient! With someone that has to work? I know I take my dogs to the groomer on Saturday like most working folks do. Maybe she didn't do her homework when it came to flammables. I am guessing she did not know that gasoline gives off fumes that explode when you ignite them.
It is just disgusting what she did to this family. And I just can't believe that she would forge documents and do all the vile things she did to Keith. He gave her so much! How about we give him and his kids a little more support instead of "feeling sorry for her"

Like this comment
Posted by Need to speakout
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Nov 30, 2009 at 8:07 pm

Your article disgusts me! You should be printing true facts and not
information from a neighbor that the Zuffa's had issues with during
the past years. They didn't speak to the De Piero's!!!

Keith Zuffa never felt be had a reason to leave his home and family
therefore, never moved out! Where do people get this information?

Deonna Zuffa, certainly wasn't demoralized or abused. She could be
very cunning and vindictive and I cannot believe she would destroy
her family for all her "wrong doings" and selfish needs.

Arson, Fraud and Forgery is a felon. Where is the justice, what is
the District Attorney waiting for?

Like this comment
Posted by unknown
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Nov 30, 2009 at 8:17 pm

she should be wearing an orange suit in santa rita jail. thank god she didn't kill her husband and kids.

Like this comment
Posted by D
a resident of Foothill Knolls
on Nov 30, 2009 at 8:22 pm

what she did was wrong!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Like this comment
Posted by ptown resident
a resident of Val Vista
on Nov 30, 2009 at 8:32 pm

WOW I'm suprise CHOLO hasn't responded yet. That thing always response to breaking Pleasanton news

Like this comment
Posted by Bad practice
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Nov 30, 2009 at 8:52 pm

And *once again*, the Pleasanton Weekly editorial staff has done this, despite my complaining about this *regrettable practice* before:

the article contained the reference/quote from neighbors regarding abuse towards Mrs. Zuffa by her husband at 4:45 or so pm. The reference was removed, at some point after the first commenter commented on that quote, and at the point when the commenter's comment was "(Comment removed by Pleasanton Weekly Online staff as innuendo, hearsay or specific accusatory information unsupported by facts.)" I read the article and was absolutely floored that the PW would remove the commenter's comment for "innuendo, hearsay or specific accusatory information unsupported by facts" when, IN FACT, their article did just exactly the same!

And now, of course, the article has been changed to removed that "innuendo, hearsay or specific accusatory information unsupported by facts" (possibly to stave off a lawsuit?) but the modification timestamp HAS NOT CHANGED to reflect that the editorial staff removed this inflammatory statement.

Tsk tsk. Again, this is against ALL lessons even the most cub of freshman reporters learns in journalism class. If you modify an article to remove information or change a statement, you acknowledge that modification and don't bury it, assuming that your reader isn't smart enough to notice this.

Like this comment
Posted by USCGRet
a resident of Castlewood Heights
on Nov 30, 2009 at 9:02 pm

Thank you Bad Practice for noticing that little "BLIP"... However, I too noticed that right away but I printed the original article with the what do they call it "SLANDER" against Keith.
It is a shame that the PW is so quick to judge, write and publish without knowing all the facts first. If in fact they knew Deonna, which we do very well, they would have written a COMPLETELY different article! Those statements I wrote the first time are hard facts. I truly wish we had some responsible journalism these days!

Like this comment
Posted by Janet Pelletier
Managing Editor
on Nov 30, 2009 at 9:03 pm

Janet Pelletier is a registered user.

The story has been updated, and the newest time stamp now reflects that. We will continue to renew the time stamp as we update the story as we hope to get further details on this breaking news and bring that information to you.

Like this comment
Posted by Bad practice
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Nov 30, 2009 at 9:46 pm

Thanks UCSGRet for corroborating the timeline and helping to keep the facts straight. And thank you, Janet Pelletier, for realizing that this *is* an important aspect of journalistic integrity. I'm not sure if the management of the Pleasanton Weekly/parental entity is reinforcing the notion that reporters and editors are responsible for their stories, their impact, and the good or bad effects that ripple out into the community, but I, for one, feel that this is VERY important.

I may not have ultimately pursued a career in journalism, but I studied it and practiced it for a number of years, and my solid training is still at the forefront of my mind whenever I read ANY newspaper, in print or online.

Like this comment
Posted by cholo
a resident of Livermore
on Nov 30, 2009 at 10:12 pm

Hey folks, cholo here! Sorry you missed my commentary and I do appreciate your interest, but at this time I will reserve all judgement on the family in question ... of course until further details on this breaking news is available :D

Like this comment
Posted by Jeb Bing
editor of the Pleasanton Weekly
on Dec 1, 2009 at 5:18 am

Jeb Bing is a registered user.

These comments have run their course. The article will be re-posted with a requirement that posters log in to comment.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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