12-Year-Old Suspect Charged In Plainfield Arsons
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UPDATED 02/28/12 4:21 p.m.
PLAINFIELD, Ill. (CBS) – A 12-year-old boy stands charged with setting a rash of fires in Plainfield, which destroyed five cars and a home within weeks.
As CBS 2’s Susanna Song and WBBM Newsradio’s Bernie Tafoya report, Plainfield police say the boy confessed to setting fire to cars on Hazelwood Drive, in the Arbor Creek subdivision, since Christmas.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bernie Tafoya reports
At a news conference Tuesday morning, Plainfield police Chief John Konopek said the boy, a foster child in the neighborhood, was arrested around 7 a.m. Monday while allegedly burglarizing a car on the very same block where he allegedly set five other cars on fire.
He is charged as a juvenile with five counts of arson, three counts of burglary to a motor vehicle and two counts of criminal damage to property.
Police say the boy, who had been living in the area with his foster parents for the past year, targeted unlocked cars and set them on fire between Christmas and Jan. 8.
He had actually been a suspect early on, because he claimed to be a witness. But police said his statements never matched up or added up.
Detectives interviewed the boy numerous times, and used undercover surveillance. He confessed to all the fires when police found him trying to break into the car on the block Monday morning, police said.
“We just asked him, ‘Was there anything else, really, you need to tell us?’ And at that point, he just spontaneously provided the information on all the fires that occurred,” Konopek said.
The boy showed remorse for his alleged crimes, police said. He allegedly told police he just wanted to see how big the fires could get, and didn’t want to hurt anyone.
“He did show remorse. He actually did not want anybody to get hurt, but his motivation, if you will, starting the fires, was basically to see how big the fires would grow,” Konopek said.
The boy’s foster parents did not go to the Plainfield police station when officers called them and gave them an opportunity to sit in on the interview that investigators conducted with the boy. The foster parents have been uncooperative with police, Konopek said.
The foster parents also were not supervising the boy at night when he would leave the house.
“This young male – he needs some assistance,” Konopek said. “He needs some counseling, you know, whatever it may be – but something that, obviously, law enforcement cannot provide. Again, the first priority is we need to get him to stop; second priority is we need to get him to stop.”
Police said the foster parents, who’ve lived in the neighborhood for about a year, aren’t cooperating.
Construction crews were still repairing a damaged townhouse from the ravages of a fire on Jan. 7.
Three doors down, Lisa Morris is relieved at the arrest. Her two sport-utility vehicles were set on fire on Christmas morning.
“I lost both of my vehicles. I lost all the content in my garage, and it was Christmas morning, so we lost Christmas,” Morris said. “If this boy is the one who did it, we can finally sleep at night. You know, everybody – the neighbors have been wonderful. The neighborhood is a good neighborhood, you know, all the neighbors work together, and the police and everybody got involved in this, and luckily, they found the person.”
Morris’ insurance company covered all of the damage to her garage.
But regardless of the arrest, neighbor Quentin Banks said he will continue to take precautions.
“Definitely it’s a concern, you know, make sure to close up; keep the garage closed,” he said. “Beforehand, you know, you didn’t really worry about things like that too much.”
The suspect is in a juvenile detention facility, pending court proceedings.
Police have also contacted the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services to investigate the boy’s foster family, as there are more foster children in their house.