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Portola Valley: Arrest warrant issued for car arson suspect

There's a new twist in the case of a 2006 blue Dodge Durango SUV found unoccupied and burning on the evening of May 3, 2011, along Alpine Road near Arastradero Road in Portola Valley.

The Durango's owner, Nery Leonidas Garcia of Redwood City, had been out of custody on $50,000 bail in connection with arson charges. But Mr. Garcia, 26, did not appear for a scheduled pretrial conference at San Mateo County Superior Court on Tuesday, April 3, so Criminal Presiding Judge Craig Parsons has issued a warrant for his arrest, prosecutors said in a District Attorney's Office report.

The incident of the burning vehicle unfolded over one day, beginning with a call by Mr. Garcia's wife to the county Sheriff's Office to report the theft of the Durango, prosecutors said.

A deputy discovered the vehicle in question in Portola Valley around 11:40 p.m., noticed a chemical smell, and saw a thick plume of smoke inside, according to a report at the time.

The deputy called in emergency crews, who shut down a section of Alpine Road for about two and a half hours while firefighters and the county's hazardous materials team dealt with the fire and its aftermath.

Authorities attributed the incident to arson after an analysis showed indications of gasoline inside the vehicle, deputies said at the time.

Prosecutors said an investigation revealed that Mr. Garcia had been behind in his car payments and had arranged for the fire so as to have the insurance company pay the $14,000 he owed on the Durango.

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