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Man may have killed family before starting wildfire, suicide

Monday, October 18, 2004

BRENTWOOD, Calif. -- Preliminary information suggests that a man who apparently committed suicide after setting a fire in Yosemite National Park had earlier killed his wife and two young daughters, police said Sunday.

The bodies of Michelle Celebrini, 32, and her daughters, 6-year-old Nina Celebrini and 9-year-old Samantha Foutch, were found Saturday in their home in Brentwood, about 50 miles east of San Francisco.

The same day, rangers in a remote area of the national park's Hetch Hetchy basin found a body that they believe is that of an arsonist who ignited a 2,000-acre blaze in the area. Brentwood police Sgt. Tom Hansen said investigators suspect the body is that of Richard Celebrini, who they believe killed his wife and the girls.

Autopsy results were not released Sunday, but park spokes-man Scott Gediman said the suspected arsonist appears to have died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

On Friday, visitors told park rangers they saw a man lighting fires and brandishing a gun on a hiking trail in the Hetch Hetchy basin. The body found Saturday closely matches the description of the suspected arsonist, Gediman said.

The fire burned in remote, rugged wilderness in the northwest portion of the park, where no structures or roads were threatened. Firefighters had planned to begin fire suppression efforts Sunday morning, but steady rain that started late Saturday night had put out most of the fire by Sunday afternoon.


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