Young firestarter faces 11 years for Living Savior arson
- Geoff Pursinger
- The Times - News
UPDATE: Second juvenile involved will go to court June 11
One of two 13-year-old boys who pleaded guilty for burning down a Tualatin church in March will wait in prison until a bed opens up at a treatment home for troubled boys.
On Tuesday, Washington County Juvenile Court Judge Michele Rini sentenced one of the two boys to the Oregon Youth Authority, the state's juvenile detention department for up to 11 years until his 25th birthday, but recommended that the boy be transferred to St. Mary's Home for Boys, a residential treatment center in Beaverton for emotionally and behaviorally disturbed teens.
As part of a plea agreement, the boy was evaluated by the facility last week, in lieu of jail time, but St. Mary's officials had not reached a decision on whether to admit the boy by The Times' press deadline.
The boy had faced charges of second-degree burglary, first-degree arson and theft after investigators say he and another teen used a key to break into Living Savior Lutheran Church, searched for money, then lit a fire in the building before leaving in the early morning of March 19.
As part of the plea agreement, the burglary and theft charges were dismissed.
The Times does not release the names of juvenile offenders, and is not releasing the names of either teen.
The boy was given several evaluations including a psychological evaluation after he was arrested, prosecutors said. The psychological evaluation said the boy had a 'delinquent mindset' and recommended he be sent to a correctional facility.
'One thing I have to tell you reading these evaluations, there is a common thread that runs through all of these: That high-risk, attention-seeking behavior of yours,' Rini told the boy in court Tuesday. 'Now, here you are before your 14th birthday with more felony behavior, more criminal proceedings, and you have a family that has been supportive and has been here for you every day...At this point, I can't ignore the recommendation of the professionals.'
St. Mary's accommodates 56 boys, and prosecutors said if the boy isn't admitted now, he could stay on a wait list for more than a year until room becomes available.
The boy was originally scheduled to be sentenced on May 15, but minutes before the hearing began, prosecutors asked the judge to postpone sentencing until Tuesday while St. Mary's staff evaluated the teen.
Living Savior's pastor Nathan Brandt said insurance would help repair much of the building, but that the church was seeking restitution to cover its deductable.
A final estimate isn't available yet, but current projections are around $12,500.
The three-alarm fire drew 17 fire trucks and about 60 firefighters from Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue, Lake Oswego Fire Department and Portland Fire and Rescue.
Firefighters arrived at the church at about 3:17 a.m. and found heavy fire and smoke venting from several portions of the building.
The two teens were arrested that afternoon and have been lodged in the Donald E. Long Juvenile Detention Center since.
The two-story preschool and office space was built about 30 years ago. The church sanctuary, which also sustained heavy damage to the roof, was rebuilt three years ago.
Since the fire, the church has held service at nearby Tualatin Elementary School, while the church's preschool has been operating at Triumphant King Lutheran Church in Lake Oswego.
Demolition on the sanctuary began last week, and church officials have met with architects, contractors and insurance adjusters.
Brandt said his hope is to have the sanctuary ready for the congregation as early as this fall, but rebuilding the rest of the church could take as long as two years, he said.
Before being sentenced, the boy made a brief statement to the court, saying he was sorry for the stress he had brought everyone involved in the case.
'I feel really bad for putting everyone in this position,' he said.
Rini told the boy he likely wouldn't spend the full 11 years in juvenile detention, but would stay until he finished his treatment and was ready to be released.
'That's up to you,' she told the boy, who stood shackled wearing a dress shirt and slacks.
Rini said the St. Mary's program was a good fit for him, but could not make the home admit him, saying she would recommend he be transferred there should its officials accept him into the program.
'Good luck, OK?' she said, before he was escorted out of the courtroom.
The other boy involved in the Living Savior case is expected to be sentenced on June 11.