An arsonist is finally identified and captured.
On August 15, 1989, an overheated car pulled to the side of a road in Stockton, California. The owner was a man we’ll call Joseph Villa. Joseph inspected the damage while his wife and son looked on. He decided that he and his son should walk to the nearest phone. On the way, they noticed a camouflage jacket on the ground. Inside a pocket was an unlabeled videotape.
Joseph and his son decided to take the video home and watch it. The video was of a house on fire. The family immediately turned it over to police, who were convinced that the person holding the camera had also set the fire. Captain Frank Curry of the California Department of Forestry assumed the disturbing voice heard on the tape belonged to the arsonist:
Captain Curry and investigators studied the videotape in order to pinpoint the location of the fire:
A county arson investigator accompanied Joseph Villa’s brother to the spot where the tape had been discovered. Amazingly, the jacket was still there. In it they found a wooden pestle, the kind used to grind herbs for satanic rituals. Nearby, they also found a glove that matched the jacket and a ceramic skull. According to Captain Curry, the skull suggested Satanism, as did the words of the arsonist:
Despite a frame-by-frame analysis, the photographic enhancements did not reveal any new details. Investigators were still unable to match the tape with any reported fires in the state of California. The tape was found by the Villa family just a few yards from Interstate 205, near Stockton. Interstate 205 feeds into several major highways. According to Dough Allen, a law enforcement coordinator for the California Department of Forestry, the fire could have happened anywhere in the U.S.:
The house appeared to be a one-story ranch with two chimneys. There is another house on the left side of the picture, partly hidden by a white trailer. The trailer indicated that the burning house was possibly under construction.
Within minutes of our broadcast, several viewers called and identified the house seen burning on the videotape. It was located in Redwood City, California, 80 miles west of Stockton. The house that was destroyed was under construction at the time. Today it has been rebuilt. Surprisingly, on the night of the blaze, Woodside Fire Captain John Dellinges also videotaped the fire:
By comparing Captain Dellinges’ tape with the video shot by the arsonist, investigators were able to confirm that this was definitely the fire’s location. According to Detective Mark Pollo of the Redwood City Police, authorities had two suspects:
Both suspects were underage when they set the fire and were tried as minors. One served time at juvenile hall. The other was committed to a state mental hospital.