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.