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.”