A 26-year-old Santa Monica woman is facing murder and arson charges in connection with the death of her 93-year-old great-grandmother. Police say Riverside County Sheriff’s deputies detained Victoria Renae Darlington near Joshua Tree National Park until Santa Monica officers could arrive to make the arrest Tuesday.
Darlington is currently held on $2 million bail while she awaits further court proceedings. Neighbors say Victoria was living with her great-grandmother, Geraldine Darlington, and had left the house by the time firefighters reached the home to fight the blaze Monday night. Police say evidence gathered at the scene led them to believe Victoria intentionally set the fire before leaving.
“We are dealing with an actual murder investigation at this point,” Lt. Saul Rodriguez with the Santa Monica Police Department said.
Rodriguez said Geraldine was unconscious but still alive when firefighters got to the home on the 2600 block of 31st Street in Sunset Park around 9:40 p.m. Monday. The elderly woman died at the hospital. Autopsy results have not been released.
Debris from the fire lay strewn across the driveway Thursday along with discarded crime scene tape. Plywood boards were nailed to a former garage that had been converted into a living area in the 1950’s-era house.
Geraldine lived in the same house for nearly 50 years before passing away. A family friend, who asked to remain anonymous because of the sensitivity of the case, told the Daily Press that Geraldine had grown increasingly frail over the last year.
A next-door neighbor said at one point Geraldine worked for McDonnell Douglas. She and other neighbors told the Daily Press they are still processing the news that Geraldine’s own great-granddaughter is accused of murder.
“It’s hard to believe. She loved her grandmother more than anything else in the entire world,” she said.
Police say Victoria had struggled with mental health issues and officers had been called to the home in the past. However, the 26-year-old was never arrested and has no prior criminal history, according to records obtained by the Daily Press.
A Facebook page linked to Victoria said she was a student at Santa Monica College. Her public Instagram account included several disturbing images, including an image of dismembered body parts and other graphic drawings. The account had been deleted by Thursday afternoon.