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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

$200,000 Fire Damage Holds 12 Year Old Boy Responsible

Police in southwest suburban Plainfield said a pre-teen arsonist is responsible for a fire-starting spree in his neighborhood that ended up causing $200,000 damage.

Plainfield police Chief John Konopek said the 12-year-old admitted to setting ablaze five vehicles in the 16000 block of Hazelwood Drive between Dec. 25 and Jan. 7, including a Christmas Day fire that spread to the home of Lisa Morris and her family.

Morris said Tuesday she was making breakfast that morning when her children smelled smoke and accused her of burning the food.

“It was the garage that was burning,” she said.

A Ford Explorer and a Nissan Pathfinder parked inside were destroyed as the fire spread to the house. Morris’ family and pets were able to escape without injury, but were unable to live in their home until last week.

Another car fire was started on New Year’s day, and a Jan. 7 fire spread to a townhome that ended up having to be gutted, authorities said.

Konopek said an officer doing undercover surveillance in the area spotted the boy burglarizing an unlocked car around 7 a.m. Monday and arrested him.

As he was being interviewed about the break-in he admitted to setting all the fires, Konopek said.

Konopek said they boy had been identified early in the investigation as a possible witness to one of the fires.

“And some of the information he provided didn’t match up,” Konopek said.

The boy targeted unlocked cars at random, using paper and cloth he found inside to start the fires, authorities said.

“He wanted to see how big he could get the fires to grow,” Konopek said, adding the boy showed remorse for the crimes on Monday.

“He didn’t want for anyone to get hurt and gave no indications he thought the vehicle fires would spread to the buildings,” he said.

The boy reportedly has been in foster care at a home on the block for less than a year. He was charged with five counts of arson, three counts of burglary to motor vehicles and two counts of vandalism for spray-painting houses on Arbor Creek Drive on Feb. 22.

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