Arson suspect could be tried as adult

Published 11:19 pm Friday, July 17, 2009

Suffolk prosecutors have filed paperwork to try a teen accused in a Franklin Street arson as an adult.

The boy, who was 15 years old on June 24 when the fires started, faces eight felony counts — one count of arson of an unoccupied dwelling, two counts of arson of occupied dwellings and five counts of burning or destroying personal property.

A juvenile court judge ultimately will make the decision whether the boy will be tried as an adult, said Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Wiser. A hearing will be held July 28 on the case.

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According to Virginia law, if a child who is at least 14 years old or older at the time of the offense, and the offense would be a felony if committed by an adult, a hearing can be held to determine if the child should be tried as an adult. The judge considers such factors as the child’s age, competency to stand trial, the seriousness of the offenses, the criminal and school records of the child, potential for effective treatment and rehabilitation in the juvenile system, and more.

Wiser could not give any additional details on the case or the hearing.

The fire, which destroyed an occupied house, a duplex and an unoccupied home, along with a two-story garage, started in the vacant house and quickly spread to the buildings on either side.

A total of 11 people were displaced from their homes by the blaze, and four firefighters were taken to the hospital with minor injuries suffered while fighting the fire.

The charges of burning or destroying personal property address the damage or destruction of four private vehicles and one fire truck during the fire.

Heat damage to the fire truck, a 2008 model, caused several emergency light lenses, the hose cover and some hose to melt, said Debbie George, spokeswoman for the city.