A 19-year-old man who started a fire inside a Denny's restaurant in Mecca, causing significant damage but no injuries, is awaiting transfer to state prison today to serve out a four-year sentence after striking a plea deal with prosecutors in several cases.
Juan Julian Serrano, a transient who frequented the Mecca area, pleaded guilty Wednesday to one felony count of arson of a non-dwelling. In exchange for his plea, one felony count each of burglary, vandalism and arson of property were dismissed.
Serrano additionally entered guilty pleas in four unrelated misdemeanor cases Riverside County Superior Court Judge Burke Strunsky immediately handed down the sentence at the Larson Justice Center in Indio, which included credit for time served totaling one year and 203 days.
Deputies responded about 11 p.m. last June 30 to an alarm call at the Denny's restaurant at 90470 66th Ave., where deputies found evidence of forced entry and a fire blazing within. Firefighters arrived and extinguished the flames.
Video surveillance helped deputies identify Serrano as the suspect, and he was arrested about two weeks later, according to Riverside County sheriff's Lt. Mike Bianco.
The felony arson count that was dismissed under the plea deal was filed in connection with a dumpster fire he allegedly started on June 29 at the same Denny's location, according to prosecutors.