In re: Loui Zeravica, 602 Orange Ave., Aug. 13, 1932, 11:01 p.m. [Fire Marshal's Report]
[Arson / California / Great Depression]. [Santa Ana]: 1933. Four typescript pages on 8-1/2" x 11" leaves, recto only, plus 11 8" x 10" b&w photographs stamped "Arson Bureau Santa Ana Fire Department" on verso. First page of text stamped "received" by the state fire marshal on January 4, 1933. Fine.
The official report by fire marshal Boyd Sleeper on a Depression-era arson fire that killed the arsonists, Loui (or Louis, according to a newspaper account) Zeravica, a Yugoslavian immigrant, and his 16-year-old son, Lee. The Zeravicas, who owned the house but weren't living in it at the time, set the fire shortly after taking out an insurance policy on the property.
The report details the steps the pair took to set the fire, which included dousing the floors and cabinets with three cans of gasoline (still present at the scene at the time of investigation). Apparently unaware that gasoline vapors are flammable, they opted to set the fire with a candle, inadvertently causing an explosion at 11:01 p.m. that reverberated through the neighborhood, blasted out the windows of the house, and set both Zeravicas on fire. The two men ran burning from the scene and were encountered by offduty policemen on a nearby street, who put out the flames and rushed the men to the hospital. Lee succumbed to first-degree burns five hours later; Loui, who investigators planned to charge with his son's death, died a few hours after that.
Firefighters extinguished the blaze quickly, and earn praise from Sleeper here for their speed and efficiency, which allowed for minimal destruction of the evidence, which was plentiful: i addition to the evidence in the house, the Zeravica's car was found nearby with a gas can lid inside. Possible motives were a lawsuit Zeravica was fighting over a promissory note, the sizeable mortgage still due on the house, and the Zeravicas chronic shortage of money.
Included with the report are photographs of the scene after the fire was put out, including both exterior and interior shots of the house, and of the terribly burned Zeravicas in the hospital.
A thorough, if disturbing, report on a tragic crime.