Real Name: Unknown
Date: August 5, 1989
Location: Stockton, California
Details: On August 5, 1989, a family driving near Stockton, California, pulled over after their car overheated. The father, "Joseph Villa," and his son decided to walk to the nearest telephone to get assistance. While walking, Joseph's son noticed a camouflage jacket on the side of the road. Inside the jacket, they found a videotape, which they decided to take with them.
Once they got home, they decided to view the videotape; they were shocked to discover that the video was of a house on fire. The video contained commentary from an unknown person who made references to Satanism and a mysterious figure he called "Omar." The Villa family then turned the tape over to authorities. Authorities believed that the person speaking on the video is the arsonist.
Despite searching through various reports of fires in California, authorities were unable to determine where the fire occurred. An investigator went with Joseph's brother to the site where the videotape was found. In the jacket, they found a wooden pestle, which is sometimes used in Satanic rituals. Nearby, they found a glove that matched the jacket, along with a ceramic skull. These items suggested that Satanism was involved in the arson.
A further examination of the videotape showed that firefighters did respond to the fire. Authorities tried to enhance the tape to see if they could get a house number or a fire department insignia. However, the enhancements revealed no further clues.
Based on the location of the tape, which was near Route 205, authorities believe that the arsonist could be from anywhere in the United States; they could have been just passing through the area when they deposited the tape.
The house appeared to be a one-story ranch house with two chimneys. There was another house nearby, partially hidden by a trailer. The trailer suggests that the house was under construction at the time of the fire. The arsonist claimed that the fire took place in 1988; TV commercials on another part of the tape seem to verify this date. Since firefighters responded to the blaze, it is apparent that someone reported this fire somewhere in the United States.
Suspects: None known
Extra Notes: This case was on the September 19, 1990 episode of Unsolved Mysteries. It was also documented on Cold Case Files (episode "Fire Flicks").
Results: Solved. Shortly after the broadcast, several residents of Redwood City, California, identified a residence near their house as the one on fire in the videotape. Redwood City is eighty miles from Stockton, where the video was discovered. The fire occurred on August 15, 1988; the house in the videotape was under construction at the time and has since been rebuilt. Surprisingly, on the night of the fire, a fire chief also videotaped the fire for training purposes. The two videos were compared and were shown to be identical, and it was confirmed that the house on the arsonist tape was the Redwood City house.
Several tips from the broadcast also led to a seventeen-year-old youth from Woodside, California. This individual led authorities to a nineteen-year-old youth from the Redwood City area; the nineteen-year-old identified himself as the one who filmed the fire and the voice on the video. Since both arsonists were juveniles when they set the fire, they were tried as minors. One of the teens served time in juvenile hall and the other was committed to a state mental hospital.