3 deaths ruled homicides in fatal Wallingford house fire over weekend

SEATTLE — The King County Medical Examiner has ruled three deaths in a fire in Wallingford on Saturday as homicides.

Salvatore Ragusa of Seattle, 48, was identified on Tuesday and died of smoke inhalation of toxic chemicals. His death was ruled a suicide.

Identified on Wednesday were: Four-month-old Valentina Ragusa, who died of smoke inhalation; 7-year-old Sebastino Ragusa who died of asphyxiation; and 40-year-old Lana Stewart who was killed by “multiple sharp force injuries.”

Authorities found the two adults and two children dead after a fire destroyed a house in Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood on Saturday, according to Seattle Police.

Officers responding to a shooting at the intersection of North 48th Street and Whitman Avenue North found the home engulfed in flames.

Police arrived at the burning home around 8:40 a.m., where an 11-year-old child had escaped and called for help.

Police arrived to find the home engulfed in flames. Officers attempted to forcefully enter the home but the door was blocked.

Firefighters then began extinguishing the flames and ensured neighbors living to the east and west of the fire were safe.

However, because of the intensity of the flames, crews were forced to move away from the home and continue fighting the fire from a safe distance.

It took 45 minutes for crews to knock down the fire. When first responders entered the home, they found two dead adults along with a dead child, a dead infant, and a dead dog, Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz and Seattle Fire Chief Harold Scoggins said in a news conference.

One of the adults was found in front of the house, while the other adult was found toward the back of the property.

Police do not currently know how the fire started.

According to the King County Prosecutor’s Office, Ragusa was charged with arson enhanced with domestic violence on April 9, 2019, where bail was set at $75,000.

On April 23, 2019, Ragusa pleaded not guilty and the court released him with electronic home monitoring after a bond was posted.

After Oct. 22, 2019, Ragusa was screened and approved for Mental Health Court, which was requested by the victim.

Ragusa would eventually plead guilty to reckless burning and malicious mischief, both with domestic violence enhancements. For the reckless burning, he was sentenced to 364 days in jail, with credit for 262 days served and 102 suspended. For the malicious mischief, he was sentenced to 364 days with 364 days suspended. He was also given 24 months of active supervision, along with other mental health conditions, such as following a treatment plan and surrendering weapons.

On Feb. 22, 2022, the court was told by his mental health provider Ragusa was in full compliance over the past two years, along with Ragusa telling the court he had been doing better. Ragusa graduated from Mental Health Court on Feb. 8, 2022, and his case was closed.

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,” said Diaz “We are trying to make sure that the child does have a healthy recovery.”

Seattle Police officers will continue to work with Seattle Fire investigators to determine the cause of the fire and how the other victims died.

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