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Boy gets four years for arson

A Suffolk boy will spend more time in a detention home for the arson of three homes on Franklin Street in June 2009, and he has been ordered to pay nearly $1 million in restitution.

Kelly Golden Jr., 16, received his sentence in court Wednesday. Judge Carl Eason sentenced Golden to four years in a juvenile detention home in Chesapeake. The case will be reviewed after two years, at which point Golden could be released.

Golden also faces significant time in the Virginia state penitentiary if he misbehaves again after his release. Eason sentenced him to 19 years, with all of it suspended. The sentence can be revoked if Golden violates his supervised probation.

Eason also ordered $952,059.15 in restitution.

A fire set by Golden destroyed three homes on June 24, 2009. On that day, he and some friends had been drinking, according to evidence presented at trial. They met up at Golden’s home, 122 Franklin St., went to the abandoned house next door and began setting things on fire inside the house.

After lighting some fires and putting them out, the boys let one fire get out of control and then fled the house. The fire quickly engulfed that building, as well as Golden’s family’s home next door and the Pabis family residence at 118 Franklin St.

The occupants of all the buildings escaped unharmed, but two cats perished in the Pabis residence. In addition, two vehicles belonging to the Pabises were destroyed.

The fire also melted lights, hoses and other accessories on two responding fire trucks, and destroyed a Ford Focus whose owner was driving by and got trapped by the emergency vehicles. The jury, however, absolved Golden of wrongdoing for those charges.

“We’re dealing with a massive material loss here,” prosecutor Jim Wiser said. “I hope the court considers the intangible loss this malicious act has caused.”

Wiser also noted that Golden had been in trouble at the detention home, and that the boy had attempted to deflect responsibility during his trial.

“He still is not taking responsibility for this, and that really concerns the commonwealth,” Wiser said. “The commonwealth thinks he still has not learned his lesson.”

Golden also was found etching gang signs on the wall in the detention home, Wiser said.

Defense attorney Ed House argued for a light sentence, saying Golden had shown “exceptional progress” at the detention home and was a “model juvenile prisoner.”

“They are raving about him,” House said. “He’s well-respected. They look up to him there.”

House said Golden has learned his lesson and expressed his confidence “that Kelly will never be in trouble again.”

Golden spoke just before his sentencing, telling Eason he had learned to be more goal-oriented and hopes to study engineering someday.

“I learned to choose my friends better and respect my parents and elders,” he said. “Although I cannot change my past, I can learn from it and change my future.”

Eason, just before pronouncing his sentence, said he considered Golden’s arson the result of immaturity.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that, to some degree, the acts were the result of immaturity and juvenile-type behavior,” Eason said. However, he added that he was not convinced Golden had completely changed.

“You cannot escape what you did,” Eason said.