Vacaville is considered a relatively safe city in which to live, with a violent crime rate much lower than the state’s average. Nevertheless, Vacaville has witnessed its fair share of horrors over the years.
Here are six shocking crimes that unnerved residents of this otherwise peaceful community.
#1 – Two girls slain by killer who captured the horror on Instagram Live
It wasn’t long ago when Raymond Weber, the 29 year-old brother of the rapper known as Uzzy Marcus, allegedly killed two girls in his Rocky Hill Apartment.
In the early morning hours of January 30, 2021, Weber reportedly gunned down his fiancee, 26 year-old Savannah Theberge of Utah, along with another girl, a 15 year-old from Elk Grove.
Weber reportedly streamed the aftermath on an Instagram Live video from his Vacaville apartment which showed the bodies of the two girls as they lay lifeless on the floor. Viewers who saw the horror immediately contacted Vacaville police, who promptly arrived on scene and began an eight-hour standoff with the suspect. Weber was taken into custody and currently faces charges, including two counts of first-degree murder.
The fact this horrific crime was captured on Instagram Live made headlines around the world.
#2 – Man kills woman he met on dating app, burns her body and causes a massive and deadly wildfire
The massive LNU Complex Fire of 2020 which swept the hills of Vacaville, incinerating homes and claiming the lives of two local residents, was allegedly started in part by a man accused of killing a woman before setting her body ablaze in an effort to dispose of her remains.
Victor Serriteno, 29, stands accused of killing 32-year-old Priscilla Castro of Vallejo. Serriteno reportedly met Castro through a dating app before traveling to Vacaville on August 16, 2020, to meet Serriteno on a first date.
Officials later announced that Serriteno is believed to have killed Castro before setting her body on fire in a rural area near Lake Berryessa. That fire allegedly sparked the deadly Markley wildfire, which merged with the Hennessy Fire, ultimately becoming part of the massive LNU Complex Fire that incinerated over 363,000 acres, destroyed nearly 1,500 structures, and is credited with the deaths of six people.
It was announced during a press conference that the Marklay Fire, believed to have been started by Serriteno, specifically claimed the lives of Douglas Mai, 82, and Leon “James” Bone, 64, both of whom were found dead in their Pleasants Valley area homes that burned in the fire. Serriteno faces three counts of first-degree murder.
The LNU Complex Fire is the sixth largest wildfire in the state’s history.
#3 – A 1997 street fight in Vacaville left one teenager dead and the controversial way the case was handled became a 60 Minutes episode
Chad O’Connell admitted to stabbing Jerry Alvarez English to death with his 11-inch hunting knife. But it was the victim’s friends, David Moreno and Justin Pacheco, both Hispanic, who were charged with English’s murder. Moreno and Pacheco both helped the wounded English back to a car and took him to a nearby hospital.
So why were the victim’s two friends being charged with his murder?
The prosecutor believed Chad O’Connell acted in self defense when he stabbed Jerry English that November night. After all, it was English and his friends, David and Justin, who had approached O’Connell carrying metal pipes. It was reported the two sides had a confrontation the previous evening, during which the windows on David’s car were broken. Nine teenagers fought, but it was David and Justin who allegedly assaulted their rivals and were charged with English’s murder.
According to 60 Minutes, prosecutors used the provocative act doctrine to charge the teens. Under the doctrine, a person may be charged with murder if that person commits a dangerous act that leads to the death of another person, even if the person committing the dangerous act isn’t the one who kills directly.
The district attorney characterized it as a gang fight, claiming David and Justin were members of the violent Nortenos gang out to avenge the damage done to David’s car.
60 Minutes points to the defense’s denials that the two teens were members of a gang, the fact the original conviction was thrown out after five jurors complained of being bullied into voting guilty, and that the district attorney had tried to bar Judge Villareal, the county’s only Hispanic judge at the time, from hearing future felony cases after the judge ordered a new trial.
David and Justin were acquitted in the second trial, on the assault charge as well, and walked out of the courtroom free men after spending more than two years behind bars.
#4 – DNA helps solve cold case of 14-year old Vacaville girl killed nearly 40 years ago
De Anna Lynn Johnson, a 14-year old student at Will C. Wood High School never made it home from the party she attended on November 15, 1982. Her body was discovered the following day by the train tracks near Elmira Road. Johnson had reportedly been bludgeoned to death with a rock.
For nearly 40 years, no arrest was made in the case, until DNA testing in 2016 linked Marvin Ray Markle Jr. to the crime. Markle, who was 17 at the time of Johnson’s death and long considered a person of interest in the case, had attended that party with Johnson back in November of 82’.
Markle was already in prison, serving time for the 2001 murder of Shirley Pratt of Butte County, and is currently awaiting trial for charges pertaining to the Johnson case.
The solving of this Vacaville cold case was picked up by national media.
#5 – Allendale Couple Murdered in their home
On September 17, 1993, Kenneth and Marjorie Stotz, 75 and 66, were approached at their Allendale home in Vacaville by Daniel Rusk, a 16 year-old who initially told the couple he was looking for his lost dog.
Rusk returned to the home, forced his way in, pulled a gun on the couple and demanded money. After Mrs. Stotz told Rusk the couple didn’t have any money, Rusk tied the couple up and ransacked the home. After finding cash inside a wallet, an angered Rusk repeatedly stabbed Mr. and Mrs. Stotz to death. Rusk stole the couple’s car and made off to Reno, Nevada, where he was subsequently arrested. In 1995, Rusk was found guilty on two counts of first-degree murder.
Rusk’s requests for parole have so far been denied. The brutal stabbing of this elderly couple in their home horrified the residents of Vacaville at the time.
#6 Violent radical group’s origins trace back to Vacaville prison
The late 60s and early 70s were a time of left-wing radicalization across the country. The Symbionese Liberation Army (S.L.A.) – with a slogan: “Death to the fascist insect that preys upon the life of the people” – sprang up from the nearby University of California, Berkeley, and grew out of the Black Cultural Association gang active in the California Medical Facility at Vacaville.
Directed by a U.C. Berkeley professor, S.L.A. members became infatuated with certain black inmates at the prison. The group made regular visits to the prisoners in Vacaville, and when one inmate, Donald DeFreeze, managed to escape, he joined his fellow revolutionaries at Berkeley.
With DeFreeze at the helm, the group of radicals, committed to their black nationalist agenda, carried out robberies in order to buy weapons and conduct their militaristic exercises they viewed as essential to furthering their goals.
On November 6, 1973, the group murdered a Oakland school superintendent, Marcus Foster, who the S.L.A. deemed a “fascist” for once supporting an identification system for students. The identification system had the aim of keeping non-student drug dealers and vagrants out of school campuses.
Shortly after, the S.L.A. committed one of the most famous kidnappings of all time by abducting Patricia Campbell Hearst, heiress of the Hearst fortune and granddaughter of publishing tycoon William Randolph Hearst.
Patricia Hearst was a U.C. Berkeley undergrad at the time. Hearst was taken from her home by three members of the S.L.A. After being abducted by the group, Hearst is said to have become brainwashed by members of the S.L.A., announcing her allegiance to the group just 59 days after her kidnapping.
The escaped Vacaville inmate, Donald DeFreeze, and five other members of the S.L.A. died during a violent shootout with Los Angeles police on May 17, 1974. Hearst was not among those killed. Hearst remained committed to the causes of the S.L.A. and found refuge among the surviving members of the group.
On April 21, 1975, Hearst, along with her fellow S.L.A. members, robbed the Crocker Bank in Carmichael, California. Emily Harris, one of the armed S.L.A. members, shot and killed a bystander during the heist. Hearst’s image was captured on surveillance cameras and made headlines all around the world. The S.L.A. robbers managed to escape, but were arrested in San Francisco a few months later.
Hearst was found guilty of armed bank robbery in a sensational trial that began in March of 1976, and she received a sentence of seven years in prison. Hearst served only 22 months behind bars, receiving a pardon from President Jimmy Carter.
The consensus soon became that Hearst had not acted under her own freewill, with the term “Stockholm Syndrome” offered as an explanation of her actions. The capture and arrest of Hearst along with the surviving members of the S.L.A., marked the end for the violent revolutionary group, one whose origins trace right back to Vacaville.