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Boy Committed Arsons to 'See How Big the Fires Would Get,' Chief Says

The 12-year-old told police he was sorry for his actions and glad no one was hurt, Police Chief John Konopek said at a press conference today.

The 12-year-old boy who to five cars did so because he wanted to “see how big the fires would get” and didn’t consider that someone could be injured, Plainfield Police Chief John Konopek said today.

“He did show remorse about it, and he said he didn’t want to see anyone get hurt,” Konopek said, speaking at a press conference at the .

The middle school student, who was living with a foster family in the Hazelwood Drive neighborhood where the fires were set between Dec. 25 and Jan. 8, was apprehended at about 8 a.m. Monday when Detective Dino Dabezic caught him breaking into a car. Police had been doing surveillance in the area in the hope that they could capture the suspect committing a crime, Konopek said.

When the police officer interviewing the boy asked, “(Is) there anything else you’d like to tell us?” the boy voluntarily admitted he was responsible for the fires, the chief said. He also confessed to having committed three car burglaries and two incidents of vandalism in which he spray-painted people’s houses.

The juvenile was a suspect early on in the investigation after police interviewed him as a witness to one of the fires and “some of the statements he made didn’t match up,” Konopek said.

Police didn’t want to make an arrest, however, until they were certain they had enough evidence to convict him, so catching him in the midst of the crime Monday was the break they were hoping for, he said.

The foster family with whom the boy had been living was notified of his arrest, but chose not come to the police station during the youth's interview, he said. The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services has been alerted about the situation.

“Unfortunately, the family has not been too cooperative,” Konopek said. “Obviously, there was a lack of supervision.”

The boy is currently being held at the Will County River Valley Juvenile Justice Center in Joliet on three counts of arson, three counts of burglary to a motor vehicle and two counts of criminal damage to property.

Those charges stem from these cases:

  • Vehicle fire that destroyed a 2003 Hyundai Santa Fe at 16753 Hazelwood Drive; discovered at 2:20 a.m. Jan. 8.
  • Vehicle fire that destroyed a 2002 Ford Taurus parked inside a garage at 16777 Hazelwood Drive; the fire later spread to and severely damaged the attached townhouse; discovered at 2:26 a.m. Jan. 8.
  • Vehicle fire that destroyed a 2010 Ford Escape at 16751 Hazelwood Drive; discovered at 2:45 a.m. Jan. 8.
  • Vehicle break-in at 16785 Hazelwood Drive between midnight and 6:30 a.m. Feb. 1.
  • Vehicle break-in at 16776 Hazelwood Drive at about 8 a.m. Feb. 21.
  • Vehicle break-in at 16785 Hazelwood Drive at about 8 a.m. Feb. 27.
  • Spray-paint vandalism to the side of a house at 23034 Arbor Creek Drive between 1 a.m. Feb. 21 and 5:30 p.m. Feb. 22.
  • Spray-paint vandalism to the side of a house at 23026 Arbor Creek Drive between 1 a.m. Feb. 21 and 5:30 p.m. Feb. 22.

Although he was not charged, the boy is also believed to have been responsible for fires set in a car parked inside a garage on Dec. 25 and in a car parked in a driveway on Dec. 31.

There had been questions about the because the vehicle was in a garage in which the door was closed when firefighters arrived, Plainfield Deputy Fire Chief Jon Stratton said. It's now believed the garage door may have been open when the fire was set, and was either closed later by a family member who didn't notice the fire smoldering or closed mechanically due to a malfunction caused by the fire, Stratton said.

The boy had been taking advantage of situations in which people left their cars unlocked or their garage doors open, Konopek said.

The crimes appear to be random; there’s no indication the victims were targeted, he said. In the fires, he would sometimes light items he found inside the vehicles and sometimes ignite paper and cloth he brought with him, Konopek said.

In total, all of the damage adds up to more than $200,000, he said.

Lisa Morris, who lost two cars and all of the contents of her garage in the Christmas Day fire, said the for her and all of her neighbors. To learn that the alleged culprit was a 12-year-old boy is unsettling, she said.

“It’s still a little unbelievable,” Morris said. “I do want to talk to the parents. I think that will put the closure on my questions. … I just hope the boy gets the kind of help that he needs.”  

Residentpville February 28, 2012 at 07:55 PM
Great end to a great investigation by the police and fire department. Sad to see a 12 year old being charged, but like the previous comments about parenting says it all.
Evie Michelle Kevish February 28, 2012 at 08:26 PM
I agree. The child is acting out and obviously needs help. The foster parents are not cooperating with police and clearly do not care or watch what their foster child is doing because what in the world is a 12 year old doing out at 2 or 3 in the morning? Hopefully authorities can get the child help as needed and put the child in a home with loving and caring parents that want to make a difference in that child’s life and not let their child run wild and ruin their life because of poor parenting.
SouthSide "Trash" February 28, 2012 at 10:07 PM
Not looking so good North Plainfield. Looking like us Losers down here in "gangland" at least you made the news on TV!!
billy February 28, 2012 at 10:45 PM
What are you talking about? This has nothing to do with location. This child could have lived anywhere. Besides, Hazelwood Drive is as far south as Plainfield gets. It's by no means the north side. Nor does it matter.
Jerry February 28, 2012 at 10:54 PM
Totally agree with billy......."trash" fits u perfect with a comment like that. Scroll up a little and you will see exactly where Hazelwood is, as far south in the Village you can get. U obviously have no clue what u are talking about.
Robert February 29, 2012 at 01:23 AM
SouthSide "Trash" seems to be geographically challenged
Grandpamike February 29, 2012 at 01:34 PM
Your name says it all, about you, and what you post.
concernedresident February 29, 2012 at 01:48 PM
The fact that this foster father is somewhat blaming Plainfield PD about setting a trap is sickening. He is giving foster fathers a bad name. You should be a foster father because you want to help a young person and set an example. If your foster child is in trouble and at the police station you get off your lazy ass and go down there regardless of invite or not. This guy obviously fostering children for a paycheck, I hope DCFS pulls all his kids, he's not fit to being a father. Blaming the PD for doing their job, what a joke!
Concerned February 29, 2012 at 02:18 PM
To make it clear: Hazelwood Drive is located off of the Frontage Road between Caton Farm and Route 30. This area is zoned as "Central" Plainfield as students are directed to schools that eventually filter in to PHSCC. It concerns me that adults would make a blanket statement about children and teens, then take aim at the school they attend or the area in which they reside. I have had the opportunity to spend time with a variety of children and teens from all four "houses". I've listened to what rules have been put in place, the negative experiences they have encountered and how the school administration handles such situations. What is evident is that every school is dealing with the same issues. The difference is that some schools choose to stick to the consequences set forth by administration and some don't. Plainfield South is one of the schools that absolutely follows through with discipline and for that reason it is one of the few schools that is making progress. It is time that we stop the mirrored accusations and start supporting our community. The hard truth is that this 12 year old child was in great need and no one responded. What are YOU going to do to make a difference in this community?
Reality Check February 29, 2012 at 05:57 PM
He blams the police for setting a trap for a 12 year old...ok...how about you raise a child NOT to break into cars and set them on fire and then the trap wouldn't be for him. That is a rediculous and escapist statement just like he didn't go to the police station because he wasn't invited. You shouldn't have to be invited, you should SHOW UP because it is the right thing to do. I hope he never gets another foster child. He is celarly not providing the guidance necessary to this child.
MidwestGal February 29, 2012 at 10:32 PM
This is south side folks. Gangland or not, trash is everywhere in Plainfield...even North
MidwestGal February 29, 2012 at 11:29 PM
Let's face it folks, it's not a blanket statement about south Plainfield - it's 90% trash and gang...if you live there, sorry - face reality. I would say the same thing about southeast naperville/west central naperville, south bolingbrook, etc. tons of garbage WHEREVER you go. The problem is greed...this foster parent sadly wanted government money to go along with their government cheese. And problem 2 is convenience...parents can't be bothered to raise decent kids with values and morals.
Tim February 29, 2012 at 11:45 PM
morals like yours? Morals that refer to people, as 'garbage'. Let me guess, everywhere but where you live,is filled with people who are 'garbage'. Strange how that worked out so well.
Justmyopinion March 01, 2012 at 12:01 AM
You know maybe you should spend some time down here on the "south" side. I am majorly offended by you saying the "south" is 90% trash and gangs. Thanks! I live down here and I see it the other way around. I think that there is more crime (according to the police blotter) on the north side of town. Oh wait that is mostly DUI's so does that make the people on the north side of town alcoholics?? So before you go throwing stupid comments around maybe you should think before you type!
billy March 01, 2012 at 12:18 AM
The Village of Plainfield is only 5 or 6 miles from the north to south boarder. It's silly to refer to south or northside as if we live in Chicago. There really is no difference in people or crime.
Mom of 2 March 01, 2012 at 12:18 AM
You couldn't possibly be a parent who's bothered to raise decent kids with morals and values with the way you post your point of view. If you are, my God, your children must be screwed up! Don't bother responding. You make me sick.
Justmyopinion March 01, 2012 at 12:42 AM
Thank you!! If we are all invvolved in our childrens education and lives, we will know what is going on with them and can keep the "gang" mentality out of Plainfield!
T-Bone March 01, 2012 at 02:43 AM
I guess someone didn't like my comment so they deleted it. Anyway, all I know is if I had a 12yr old and he was at the Police Station, I would be there too. I would not wait for the Police to send me an invitation! Says a lot about the parent. Just saying...
MidwestGal March 01, 2012 at 06:43 PM
No bitterness people...I have a truly blessed life. Let's not get Dr. Phil...I am just realistic. I am far from emotional, perhaps my comments struck a nerve because they are truthful? A well reasoned commentary needs opinions that come in all shapes and sizes. By garbage I mean trashy acts... And no, "everywhere but where I live" is not true. I simply meant EVERYWHERE as people with poor judgement. If you are hurt by the truth, then either make a positive difference, or climb back under your rock.
billy March 01, 2012 at 08:51 PM
I believe your comment of "90% of Plainfield is trash", is what "struck a nerve". Possibly because that statement is grossly inaccurate. I agree with you saying crime knows no boundaries. That is true. However well over 90% of village residents are law abiding contributing members of society. With that said, we all make poor choices in life, including myself. That doesn't make us potential arsonists or "trash".
Justmyopinion March 02, 2012 at 12:00 AM
Thank you Billy! I am only hurt by the truth when it is accurate and hits home. Honestly don't think that we are the ones living under the rock!
Kevin S March 02, 2012 at 11:45 PM
Wow. I hope the people at DCFS are watching this video. To clarify, the quote was "...you should notify they parents." Parent is certainly not a word I would use to describe the man being paid to look after this child. I certainly hope no other children have been, or will be, placed in the "care" of this family.

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