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    Suspect In WLB Arson -- And Kidnapping And Murder Of His Wife -- Taken Into Custody

    (Feb. 2, 2004) -- Dante Caldejon, 50, suspected by LBPD in a WLB arson -- and the kidnapping and murder of his wife -- has been taken into custody.

    In a written release, LBPD says Caldejon was apprehended on Feb. 2 at roughly 12:30 p.m. by the San Diego Police Department.

    LBPD says Caldejon made numerous calls to the victim's family member's indicatging his location and direction and travel...and was taken into custody in a Mission Bay area parking lot without incident.

    Photo source: LBPD

    Photo source: LBPD
    SDPD officers discovered the body of Caldejon's wife, Ofelia Gahol, on the floor in the back seat of his SUV.

    San Diego's PD and Medical Examiner will be conducting investigations, and will forward the results to LBPD which is conducting a joint homicide/arson investigation with LBFD's Arson Investigations Unit.

    LBPD said in a Feb. 1 release that Ms. Gahol and Mr. Caldejon were going through a divorce...and there was a history of domestic violence between the couple and Mr. Caldejon was served with a restraining order in November, 2003.

    LBPD arrived at a house fire in the 2400 block of Easy Ave. on Feb. 1 shortly after 3 a.m...and says its investigation "showed evidence of accelerants left behind in the home, leading them to believe the fire was arson."

    At the time the blaze broke out, a total of five victims were inside the home. One of the victims, a 20 year old male, suffered serious burns and was reported in critical condition.

    About an hour after the fire, LBPD says Caldejon was seen by relatives of Ms. Gahol at the relative's home in a nearby city. He fled that location, allegedly leaving behind the same type of accelerant found in the Easy Ave. home.

    Anyone with information about the homicide investigation is asked to contact LBP Homicide Detectives Richard Birdsall or Chris Cardoza at (562) 570-7244...any anyone with information about the arson portion of the investigation is asked to contact LBFD Arson Investigator Pat Wills at (562) 570-2572.

    As first reported by on Feb. 1, fighting the fire was a major, separate challenge. LBFD Public Information Officer Wayne Chaney says rescue efforts began with LBPD officers. LBFD got the call at 3:12 a.m...and when Engine 13 arrived at 3:15 a.m., LBPD officers were already breaking glass to get air to victims trapped in the burning structure. PIO Chaney said firefighters found heavy, black smoke in all areas of the house.

    LBFD's strong staffing level allowed arriving firefighters to pull a fire line and simultaneously enter the building -- without waiting for a backup unit to arrive -- and perform lifesaving search and rescue. Firefighters found one man, rescued him, then heard a faint cry...went back into the smoke filled structure, followed the voice...and found a second victim whom they pulled to safety.

    PIO Chaney credits LB Firefighters Manny Gomez and Kevin Scott from Station 13 with rescuing the victims. Three of the home's residents managed to escape the smoke and flames on their own.

    PIO Chaney says smoke was so intense that firefighters cut a heat hole in the roof to increase survivability for victims and allow better access to the blaze.

    LBFD also set up a makeshift hospital outside, triaging the patients and transporting them to local hospitals. The victims included males aged (roughly) 13, 20 and 70 and females aged 13 and 34.Easy Ave. fire 2/1/04
    Photo: Wayne Chaney, LBFD

    Easy Ave. fire 2/1/04
    Photo: Wayne Chaney, LBFD
    As the number of victims increased, LBFD was able to ramp up resources based on the circumstances of the incident.

    "We were able to call on resources to address the needs of the patients and maintain operations to keep the fire from spreading...while making sure no one else was in the house," Chaney said.

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