BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — On the night of March 26, a massive fire broke out at Palazzo Destefani, a sprawling mansion in southwest Bakersfield often used as a wedding venue.
The next morning, three fires were ignited on Independence High School property. A man was located about 50 yards away as the fires still burned.
Interviewed by arson investigators, Marty Sias admitted to starting the blazes at the school and the inferno that devastated the mansion, according to reports filed by Kern County firefighters in Superior Court.
Sias, 29, has pleaded not guilty to burglary and multiple arson-related offenses. His next hearing is scheduled later this month.
According to court documents, Sias said he entered the mansion on Buena Vista Road just south of McCutcheon Road from a balcony on the north side. He used a lighter to ignite fires in rooms on the second and third floors, the reports say.
Next he broke a sliding glass door to enter the cabana area, the reports say. Sias told investigators he drank alcohol then used it to start fires in and around the cabana.
Investigators took him back to the mansion, where he walked around the property and explained what he did. Firefighters photographed multiple liquor bottles at the scene, including bottles of Bombay Sapphire gin and Casamigos tequila.
“Sias described his actions in such great detail that I believe his story was not a fabrication,” an investigator wrote.
The roof had burned away and flames had consumed the third floor, according to the documents. Multiple walls and ceilings had collapsed in the main living area. It wasn’t safe to enter.
Bill Destefani, the owner, said he was sleeping in the office area — the main living area isn’t finished — when his dog started barking. He went outside and saw flames shooting from the roof.
Firefighters had arrived by then, and one of them got a good look at a man who ran into nearby trees and got away.
At 9:20 a.m. the following day, Sias, who matched the man’s description, was found near fires at Independence High, the reports say. One fire damaged stucco to a school bathroom, a fire in a stack of barstools damaged a metal shipping container and a third blaze was smoldering in a plastic trash can, firefighters said.
“Using his . . . lighter Sias found available fuels and deliberately started the three fires,” the reports say.