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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.”  

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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