Hancock teen responsible for attempt to set fire

November 03, 1999|By BRENDAN KIRBY

A Hancock teenager was found responsible for trying to set fire to a neighbor's house in September during a rare trial Wednesday in Washington County Juvenile Court.

Washington County Circuit Judge John H. McDowell determined that the boy, who argued he was not on the property on the night of Sept. 3, put gasoline in the basement/garage of the man's ranch-style home.

"We know something happened," McDowell said. "The whole question is what happened between 8:30 and about 9 o'clock."

The boy's attorney, Michael Wilson, presented witnesses who testified that he was at a friend's house much of the evening. He also challenged the testimony of the state's main witness, the resident of the house at 6655 Grason Lane outside Hancock.

But Assistant Washington County State's Attorney Duane Gigeous said the boy was caught "red-handed."

McDowell found the boy delinquent of attempted arson and two counts of reckless endangerment. The boy was found not delinquent of three breaking and entering charges.


McDowell ordered the boy held at Noyes Children's Center until a pre-disposition investigation is completed.

Jody Palmer, who moved into the house last July, testified that he walked out of his home to throw away leftovers at about 9 p.m. and while walking back, saw someone turn off a light in his basement and make several flicks of the wrist.

"It looked like he was trying to strike a match," he said.

When he went to his basement after chasing someone off his property, Palmer said he smelled gasoline and saw a gas can in the garage doorway.

Wilson criticized the thoroughness of the investigation.

A neighbor testified that the boy was playing with her son until between 8:30 and 8:45 that night.

The boy's grandmother testified that he returned home shortly before 9 p.m. that night and that she did not smell any gasoline odor.

The boy's father testified that the boy's sneakers had no smell of gasoline the next morning.

"There were never any matches found We're missing the instrument (of arson)," Wilson said. "I would argue that there's a lot of doubt."

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