Crime

Sheriff: Two teens ambushed woman with bladed weapons in Columbia, then set fire

The Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office has released the name of the woman slain last week in Columbia, a case that led to the arrest of two juveniles on arson and homicide charges.

Dionecia Valencia, 39, was killed the night before the fire was set the morning of Aug. 13, the Sheriff’s Office said in a news release. It said her autopsy determined she died of “multiple sharp force and chop force injuries.”

Investigation elements including physical evidence, statements and the autopsy indicate Valencia was ambushed by the two suspects, who wielded “multiple bladed weapons.” The wounds inflicted were to her head and upper body.

Two 16-year-old boys are being held on charges of murder, attempted murder and arson. The attempted-murder charges relate to a second woman whom deputies found walking away from the burning home in the Adelleana Lane area. She reported that she’d been sleeping in the home when she awoke to flames.

The morning of the fire, several deputies were dispatched to the residence. They saw two boys walking along the road but had to continue to the scene to help anyone in danger, the news release said.

When deputies encountered the woman walking away from the home, she said she was unable to locate her friend, Valencia, and feared she still might have been inside.

The house, engulfed in flames, could not immediately be searched. As firefighters worked to extinguish it, they learned of a vegetation fire nearby. That’s where Valencia’s body was found.

Tuolumne sheriff’s detectives and a Stanislaus County Coroner’s Office pathologist were called to the scene and determined Valencia had died prior to the fire being started. Blood, weapons and other evidence were collected.

Working together, sheriff’s detectives and the original responding deputies identified the two boys seen walking in the area at the time of the fire. The 16-year-olds were located, questioned and arrested based on several obtained statements and evidence.

Evidence placed the boys the scene, the news release said, and the suspects were known to Valencia. At least one of the women lived in the home, Tuolumne Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Sgt. Andrea Benson said, and Valencia was not related to either boy.

A gofundme account set up to help Valencia’s family shows that she had children. Benson could not say Wednesday afternoon if any of the children lived at the burned home, but there’s no indication any of them were there the morning of the fire.

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