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Not guilty pleads entered for 2 out of 3 suspects accused in string of Vista explosions

Posted at 6:32 PM, May 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-11 21:32:21-04

VISTA, CA (KGTV)-- Three suspects accused of a string of explosions in Vista are facing a collective total of 17 felony charges. Some of the charges include possessing, exploding, and igniting a destructive device, possession of a destructive device in a public place, and possession of ingredients to make a destructive device.

Two of the suspects, Valentin Castaneda and Caleigh Tabler, entered not guilty pleas at an arraignment Wednesday, denying all allegations. Only Tabler appeared in court virtually.

The San Diego County District Attorney’s Office tells ABC 10News that the third defendant, Juan Jose Castaneda, posted bail on May 8 and was released. He is expected to be arraigned on May 17.

The deputy district attorney on the case said the case began on May 3 when a concerned citizen called in a suspicious device in a parking lot of a Vista church. He said the bomb squad responded and rendered it safe. But prosecutors say the next day three different explosions were reported, and the sheriff’s department responded to those locations to investigate. No one was injured as a result of the explosions and the suspects were not located at the scenes.

Investigators say all devices were homemade but sophisticated

“Each device used a time fuse, sulfur, aluminum powder, flash powder, and the like,” said the prosecutor Wednesday.

After receiving tips from the public, sheriff's detectives said they spotted the suspect car in the 1200 block of North Santa Fe Avenue on Friday, but when deputies later tried to pull the car over early Saturday morning, prosecutors say, Valentin Castaneda, with Tabler as the passenger, led them on a short, high-speed chase.

“Not only did the pursuit reach 120 miles an hour, but during the pursuit, both defendants were throwing explosive devices, as well as substances used… bomb components, out of the window,” said the prosecutor.

The two were eventually arrested. Prosecutors say investigators found more evidence at two homes while executing search warrants, including a bomb-making station, a loaded AK47, numerous loaded firearms, drugs, and “a deputy sheriff uniform with patches.”

They also say a 15-year-old, 7-year-old, and 4-month-old, were removed from a home and are now with relatives, adding that the weapons and drugs were within arm’s reach of the children.

The public defender argued for bail on Tabler’s behalf, stating that she is only 21-years-old and does not have an extensive criminal history, but the judge denied bail for both defendants.

A preliminary hearing has been scheduled for May 23.