Victims of Wallingford fire identified as family of arson suspect

Sep 6, 2023, 5:50 PM | Updated: 6:53 pm

wallingford fire...

Wallingford house fire (Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

(Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

A day after Salvatore Ragusa was identified as the man who died in Saturday’s house fire in Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood, the King County Medical Examiner confirmed Wednesday Ragusa’s two children and the children’s mother died alongside their father.

The victims are 4-month-old Valentina Ragusa, her 7-year-old brother Sebastino and their mother, 40-year-old Lana Stewart, KIRO 7’s Gwen Baumgardner said.

More on Wallingford fire: Man who died in Wallingford fire identified, faced arson charge in 2019

Valentina died of smoke inhalation, Sebastino died of asphyxiation, and Stewart was killed by “multiple sharp force injuries,” according to the King County Medical Examiner.

Ragusa, 48, died from smoke inhalation and his death was ruled a suicide, the medical examiner reported. He is a suspect in their deaths.

Just before 9 a.m. Saturday morning, an 11-year-old girl escaped the fire through one of the home’s windows and then fled to a neighbor’s house. According to the Seattle Police Department (SPD), residents called 911 and reported someone had died in the home and it was on fire.

Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz said that one of their highest priorities is to make sure that the surviving child — the 11-year-old girl who was able to call for help — gets the resources she needs to recover from the traumatic event.

“Our hearts and prayers are with the child that is alive as well as those that are deceased,” Diaz said, according to KIRO 7. “We are trying to make sure that the child does have a healthy recovery.”

Ragusa was arrested on suspicion of arson in 2019, according to King County District Court records. A police report stated officers had to respond to a call of a suicidal man at 708 6th Ave. North, leading them to find Ragusa on the roof of an apartment building with a thick rope tied around his neck.

From Jason Rantz: Seattle cop reports own conversation, fears of out-of-context smears

“After speaking with Ragusa for approximately 20 minutes, officers heard the building fire alarm,” the 2019 police report stated. The Seattle Fire Department (SFD) responded, finding “the door was locked and (SFD) had to force open the door … they found there had been a fire on the kitchen counter.”

According to police, the 2019 fire was inside an apartment leased to Ragusa’s ex-wife. He was taken into custody under a $75,000 bail and faced arson charges enhanced with domestic violence. He ultimately pled guilty to reckless burning and served time in jail.

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Victims of Wallingford fire identified as family of arson suspect