Four Idaho students, three high schoolers and one middle schooler, were arrested this week, accused of burning down a school principal’s house. No one was injured in the occupied home, but the suspected act of arson saw not only the house of Payette High School principal Mark Heleker burned to the ground, but also the loss of three vehicles that were in the residence’s driveway. Prosecutors say that the boys, all teens, will be charged as adults for their actions.
The Idaho Statesman reported March 4 that Payette County prosecutor Anne-Marie Kelso stated in a news release Friday that, in accordance with Idaho state law, the teens would be charged and tried as adults. In fact, Idaho legal statutes require that anyone 14 years of age and older, when committing certain felony crimes (such as murder, rape, robbery, and first-degree arson), are to be tried as such. All of the students are 14 and older.
Prosecutor Kelso released three of the four students’ names and the criminal charges they face. The three teens were identified as Paul Hendrix-Mills, 14; Donavan Ferreira, 16; and Travis Kenney, 14. Both Mills and Ferreira were charged with felony arson and felony conspiracy to commit arson, while Kenney was charged with conspiracy to commit arson. A fourth student allegedly involved in the house burning is also charged with conspiracy to commit arson but has yet to be arraigned. He is 15-years-old.
Although Kelso noted that it was too early in the investigation to determine the students’ motive, Payette Police Chief Mark Clark has said investigators believe that a possible motive for burning down the principal’s house was the suspension of two of the boys from school. Those two students were suspended over alleged drug-related allegations.
Clark said in an previous Idaho Statesman report that one of the students had a warrant for his arrest for delivery of a controlled substance. Investigators had been called in to look into an incident where several students had become sick. Police found that the students had taken prescription medication and that the drugs had been obtained illegally. Clark noted, though, that although two students were suspended, there were no charges of drug trafficking pending against the second teen.
The students are accused of setting fire to principal Mark Heleker’s house on February 22. According to NBC News, Heleker, his wife, and his daughter were all at home at the time the fire was set and were able to escape unscathed. The daughter, a nursing student, was walking the family dog and noticed the house was on fire and alerted her parents. The house was a total loss, as were three cars parked in the drive.
KBOI-TV in Boise reported that the fire originated in a trash can, but quickly spread to the house. Payette Police Chief Clark told the station that the boys laughed as the drove away from the scene.
“After they drove down the road, they looked back and saw a home fully engulfed,” Chief Clark said. “They didn’t call 911, they didn’t notify the people (inside the house) and they made comments. They (everyone inside the home) could have easily died and I find that particularly disturbing.”
The four teens are currently being held at the Southwest Idaho Juvenile Detention Center in Caldwell on $200,000 bond each. Both felony arson and conspiracy to commit arson could see the teens, if convicted, imprisoned for up to 25 years in prison and/or a $100,000 fine.
Another student retaliation incident took place in Florida this week when Volusia County authorities arrested three 12-year-old girls for allegedly tampering with a middle school teacher’s drink. According to The Guardian, while one student allegedly distracted the teacher, 52-year-old Jayne Morgan, another allegedly grabbed her can of soda while another poured crushed red pepper into the drink and replaced it on the desk. Morgan, after taking a drink, started choking and became short of breath and would later experience a sore throat and stomach pains. The act, investigators say, was believed to have been orchestrated in retaliation for Morgan disciplining one of the girls for dumping glue in another student’s backpack.
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