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Son Accused of Setting Mom’s House Ablaze to Cover Up Her Murder

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A California man was arrested this weekend on allegations he shot his 75-year-old mom dead in an argument before setting her house ablaze to destroy evidence that could link him to the crime, authorities announced.

Fletcher Pinkham, 39, faces a charge of murder for the alleged crime, which occurred Tuesday in the small coastal community of Little River, about 150 miles north of San Francisco.

Photos of the scene showed that the four-story home of Pinkham’s slain mother, Linda Mercurio, had been turned entirely to rubble, with deputies saying the blaze’s heat was so severe it prevented firefighters from entering it before it eventually collapsed in on itself.

In the immediate aftermath of the fire, authorities in Mendocino County reported Mercurio as missing since the still-smoldering home was too hot to safely search for a body. The sheriff’s office said in a press release that it became suspicious of foul play after Pinkham emerged from a wooded area near the home in an “altered” state as firefighters tried to keep his mom’s home from burning to the ground.

Authorities search through the rubble of Linda Mercurio’s home.

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Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office

Cops said Pinkham also “appeared to need medical attention,” but did not specify what injuries he was suffering from. He allegedly refused medical treatment at the scene.

A search of the wooded area uncovered guns, ammunition, clothing, and a vehicle that belonged to Pinkham, cops said. He was taken into custody on Tuesday.

The sheriff’s office suggested there was a delay in releasing information about the alleged murder because the house fire was so intense, cops needed the assistance of forensic experts from Chico State University to find Mercurio’s remains.

“The multiple-story residence collapsed on itself due to the fire, making it difficult to fully extinguish the fire to safely commence search efforts,” the sheriff’s office said.

Even with the help of the experts, cops said it took investigators “multiple hours of systematically searching the rubble” before they located charred remains they believe belong to Mercurio. Lab results are yet to positively identify Mercurio as the victim, but cops say all evidence points to her being a victim of matricide.

The sheriff’s office did not say how they believe Pinkham started the blaze, but said the “fire was intentionally set to destroy evidence and conceal the violent nature of the crime committed against Mercurio.”

The nature of the argument that preceded the fire has not been released, but authorities said it spiraled into a “violent interaction” that led to Pinkham being shot dead. Cops did not say in their press release what evidence led them to believe Pinkham was killed before the blaze broke out.

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MendoFever, a local news outlet in Mendocino County, reported that “evidence and statements provided by Pinkham” led investigators to believe he shot his mom.

Pinkham faces a charge of murder and using a firearm during the commission of a serious felony involving death, records show. He’s being held on a $1,000,000 bail, and is slated to make his first appearance in court on Monday.

Source: The Daily Beast

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