Prosecutors charge woman with arson, car theft

Firefighters contain a small brush fire in the riverbed near Railroad Avenue and 15th Street in Newhall on Friday Dan Watson/ The Signal
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The District Attorney’s Office charged a Newhall woman Tuesday with stealing a car and arson while she was out on bail for another charge Friday afternoon. 

Maria Herrera, 28, of Newhall, “faces one felony count each of driving or taking a vehicle without consent (a 2016 Prius owned by UCLA); and arson of a structure or forest,” according to an email Tuesday from Ricardo Santiago, spokesman for the D.A.’s Office. “The charges include allegations that she was out on bail or on her own recognizance when the crimes occurred and that she was convicted of robbery in 2014.”

Herrera is accused of stealing the car and then starting a fire near 15th and Railroad Avenue on Friday, according to prosecutors. The incident was reported at 3:30 p.m. Friday, but firefighters stopped forward progress on the blaze about seven minutes later, after the fire had grown to about 2 acres, according to fire officials.

No one was hurt in the fire, and no structures were damaged in the blaze.

Multiple witnesses reported seeing Herrera flee the scene directly after the fire, according to investigators with the Sheriff’s Department’s Arson and Explosives Unit.

Herrera was caught and arrested after deputies recognized her during a traffic stop. 

The D.A.’s Office added the additional allegations due to Herrera’s criminal record. Herrera was sentenced in 2014 to three years in state prison for a no-contest plea to a robbery charge from 2012. In April 2019, she pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of presenting false identification to a police officer. In March, she pleaded no contest to a drug-possession charge, according to court records available online from the Los Angeles County Superior Court website.

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