Woman pleads not guilty to car theft, arson, probation violation

The Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station can be reached by calling 661-260-4000.

A Newhall woman accused of stealing a car and setting a fire while on probation pleaded not guilty in court at her preliminary arraignment.

Maria Herrera, 28, was charged with 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.”

The fire she’s accused of starting was reported at 3:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 2, 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.

SCV Sheriff’s Station officials confirmed the arson investigation shortly after the fire was extinguished, noting that multiple witnesses identified a woman seen leaving the scene of the blaze as a possible suspect in what’s believed to be a fire that was deliberately set.

No one was injured in the blaze and no structures were damaged. 

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.

Herrera is being held in lieu of $255,000 bail at the Century Regional Detention Facility. Her next court date is scheduled for Oct. 28.

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