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Plainfield 12-Year-Old Charged With Setting 5 Hazelwood Drive Fires

Police say the youth has admitted to setting the fires and to other crimes; more details will be forthcoming in Tuesday press conference.

A 12-year-old boy was arrested Monday for setting a along Hazelwood Drive that terrorized neighbors and prompted many to buy motion-detection lights and video surveillance systems.

Chief John Konopek said the boy, a middle-school student who lives in the neighborhood, had been a suspect in the fires that occurred between Dec. 25 and Jan. 8. However, he wasn’t charged until police caught him breaking into a vehicle in the neighborhood and obtained his confession, he said.

“Very early in the investigation he was a suspect but we wanted to build a solid case against him,” Konopek said. “We wanted to keep our minds open in case it wasn’t him. … We wanted to draw him out and catch him in the act.”

Police had been doing surveillance in the area since January, when it became clear that someone was targeting unlocked cars in the 16000 block of Hazelwood and setting them on fire. In two cases, those cars were inside garages and did damage to the attached townhouses.

The boy acted by himself, but Konopek said he wasn’t certain of the motivation, nor did he know why the juvenile's family was not aware he was leaving the house at different times of the night to commit the crimes, which also included three car burglaries and two instances in which he spray-painted people’s homes.

The victims appear to be random and, in the arson and burglary cases, likely targeted because they left their vehicles unlocked and garage doors open, the chief said.

There will be more details forthcoming Tuesday, when Konopek holds a press conference to answer questions about the arrest.

The boy has been charged with five counts of arson, three counts of burglary to a motor vehicle and two counts of criminal damage to property. He’s being held in Will County’s River Valley Juvenile Justice Center in Joliet.

The five fires set over a three-week period of time – one on Christmas Day, one on New Year’s Eve and three on Jan. 8 – scared Hazelwood Drive residents, who feared an arsonist was at large and that their homes were potential targets. A neighborhood watch was formed, and residents began leaving their porch lights on and investing in motion detection lights and camera surveillance systems.

The fires stopped, but then the vehicle burglaries and vandalism started, Konopek said.

It’s clear the suspect has some emotional issues that drove him to commit these crimes, he said.

“He has had a troubled past,” he said. “We definitely want to get this kid some help. … It’s been my experience that when a juvenile is involved in setting fires (or committing other crimes at a young age) that we find out there were reasons behind it.”

Residents leaving notes on Plainfield Patch expressed relief that the police had finally made an arrest in the arson cases.

“Yes, I can finally get one full night of sleep!” Mike Bjorklund wrote. (Bjorklund is also a Plainfield Patch freelance writer.) “As pleased as I am with the work of the Plainfield Police Department in the apprehending of this juvenile, I am sad to learn that it was a 12-year-old.”

Lisa Morris, who lost two cars and had her garage damaged in the Christmas Day fire, said she is angered the boy’s family did not do more to teach their child or keep an eye on his activities and behavior.

“They need to know from me that they have all put my family and the other families that live on this street through hell, and forgive I will do for that child’s sake, but forget I will never!” Morris wrote.

Mike Bjorklund February 28, 2012 at 01:00 AM
Yes, I can finally get one full night of sleep! As pleased as I am with the work of the Plainfield Police Department in the apprehending of this juvenile, I am sad to learn that it was a 12-year-old.
Miguel Sanchez February 28, 2012 at 01:09 AM
What are his parents' names?
Lisa Morris February 28, 2012 at 01:57 AM
My house was the First house that caught Fire Christmas morning. I am relieved they caught the kid whom claims he did start the fires, I am also angered at HIS FAMILY for not recognizing the child did not know Right from Wrong, This family let this kid rack up several charges and losing control of their parental skills. They need to know from me that they have all put my family and the other families that live on this street through hell and forgive I will do for that child sake but forget I will never! I am a mother of 3 and 2 graduated from college and are doing well and I have 1 more leaving this fall so I do know what it takes to raise children, I have been married, divorced, a single parent and remarried. I as a mother no matter how hard things got always put my children first and did without to make sure my kids treated everyone & everything around them with the utmost respect. I hope this kid learns one day that kind of respect! Last I would like to thank my neighbors, the fire department and Plainfield Department for making my family feel safe again in catching the person responsible for this horrible act. My appreciation can not be expressed enough! Thank You, The Morris's Family
Letitbeknown February 28, 2012 at 02:32 AM
My conscience......Alot of trust you have in the fire department and police department for doing their jobs. Im sure the police learned new information about the crimes that were not given to the paper, which I'm sure was part of their investigation. Good job on investigating this incident, good to see an investigation come through in the end.
Kuta February 28, 2012 at 02:43 AM
HOW does a twelve year old CHILD get out at 2am???And where are the parents.Well finally Hazelwood drive residents can sleep tonight. _
Jacob Lawhead February 28, 2012 at 04:29 AM
We can get some sleep now! It is said the Christmas day fire may have smoldered over night... Anyways, a 12 year old boy!?!? Where are the parents? This was a cry out for help.
Lisa Morris February 28, 2012 at 04:49 AM
The Plainfield Patch did not report the corrections that the kids did not remember if they close the door after taking their father's gift out of the back of the Suv and that the fire department responded around 9:30am.
Jim W February 28, 2012 at 04:50 AM
I am sure the parents have nothing, but if I was one of the people affected by this delinquent's crimes, I would be filing a civil lawsuit against his parents.
Lisa Morris February 28, 2012 at 05:07 AM
Everyone first thought it was the truck that started the Christmas fire but it turned out to be the start of the fires but again was not reported later. Alot of details were not reported in order to catch whom ever started the fires so keep that in mind.
Tim February 28, 2012 at 05:09 AM
The stories here are best called gossip, not reporting. Something along the lines of printing corrections, are a world away from the style of what gets posted here Between the articles printed with nothing but rumors for 'proof', and the horribly misquoted officials, I'm sure everyone by now knows better than to believe anything written here without further verification... Well, almost everyone.
Karen Sorensen (Editor) February 28, 2012 at 01:43 PM
Deputy Chief Stratton was not misquoted. At the time I spoke to him about it, he said the family had told investigators the door was closed so there were questions over how the arsonist got in. The fact that the fire started inside the car was the unifying factor to the other fires. It sounds as if subsequent interviews with the homeowners determined the family was not as certain about that the closed door as they had been earlier. To ensure that we have the record straight, I will get this point clarified at today's press conference.
Kelly L Karthik February 28, 2012 at 03:14 PM
A 12-year old setting a fire on Christmas day screams for help. I am relieved for the victims/possible future victims in this case...but so sad for this child. It really makes you wonder what is going on in this child's life that he felt compelled to do such a thing.
Comments about the "compassion" February 28, 2012 at 04:11 PM
How about compassion for the person's who house burned down because of negligence on the parents part. How about that poor family that could have lost their lives due to a child burning down their house. Did he have compassion for that family and other families when he was setting fire to the whole neighborhood and breaking into cars? At 12 years old, a child knows right from wrong. How about teaching discipline when they are young so things like this can be avoided.
Lisa S. February 28, 2012 at 05:51 PM
All of these comments swing on the assumption that all children know right from wrong. they don't....some kids are just 'wrong' and no amount of parental involvement, rehabilition or counseling will change that. I do not know this family, or their child and can't speculate if that is the case or not. but at the very least I agree that the parent (s) should have known where this kid was at 2 am and for that they should be held responsible.
Mike Bjorklund February 28, 2012 at 06:19 PM
Again, I'd like to thank the Plainfield Police. To hear that the police department had surveillance on this troubled youth was a sigh of relief. Here in Arbor Creek, we started having neighbor reports of someone wearing a white hoodie trying to open car doors early in the A.M. and other instances of someone checking our house doors to see if they were locked this week. Thanks in large part to the help of several residents, we continued to stay vigilant by constant communication including walkie-talkies, cameras, website updates, and phone calls. We will not rest but we all will enjoy a peaceful night of sleep. Also, to hear that the foster parents are not cooperating troubles me. According to CBS 2, the family has other children in the house. I really hope this is just a case of a troubled child not a bad family looking to earn some $$$ from the government. All I can say is with two small children if it can happen here, it can happen anywhere. We all must not believe we are immune to such horrible crimes in our community. Growing up in the Southwest side of Chicago, I always was alert to my surroundings. Maybe I became less cautious moving out here but this was a big wake-up call for all of us. We have great neighbors here and I've made some new friends through the process. Let's hope these incidents brings us together in making Arbor Creek a safe, friendly, and great place to live.
Mark February 28, 2012 at 06:38 PM
Why this child was out staring fires on Christmas day troubles me. It certainly seems that the family life was not so good. I pray this child gets the help needed and will have somthing better next Christmas. The police a DCFS must look closely at the parents.
Nicole February 28, 2012 at 07:27 PM
As a 7 year resident living on the block of Hazelwood Drive THANK YOU Plainfield Police and Fire Department. I can sleep at night now. I know this child created a lot of damage to property and to emotion but thank goodness no one got hurt! Thank you to those who were involved in the neighborhood watch and kept the residents connected! My sympathies to those who were the victims of the crimes. I hope someone gets this boy the help he needs and they put him with guardians who will help guide him to make better choices and become a responsible adult.
opinoin February 28, 2012 at 11:11 PM
@my conscience A "thinking" person would understand right from wrong. A "thinking" person would understand people could have lost their lives if they never woke up that night and realized their house was on fire. The child could be in for a lot more than arson. He could be going to jail for life for murder. The kid deserves a lot more than the slap on the wrist he is probably going to be given because he is "underage". As people have said, maybe he didn't know right from wrong..but then whose fault is that?
Anonymous February 29, 2012 at 12:10 AM
Lisa, you don't have to justify anything to faceless, nameless people on the internet, we know what happened. The Plainfield Police did a fantastic job catching the person that made it hard to sleep at night, thank you for doing what you do. The disturbing part is that the father of this kid was on Channel 7 news saying he was bothered because the police possibly set up a sting operation to catch his deviant of a kid, and said nothing about his kid possibly killing someone. Signed.....A Neighbor!
Audrey Grey-Lowry February 29, 2012 at 01:23 AM
Not sure if anyone else saw it but I saw the news at 6:00 pm where they did an interview with the foster father. He made a comment that he just wants everyone to get pass this and that he was upset the way his son was treated. He said that his son was interviewed without his parents? CBS reports and ABC also reported that the family has not been cooperating with the police? Someone's not telling the truth... bet you can guess who that is!
Debg February 29, 2012 at 01:57 AM
Yes, I also would like to thank the Plainfield Police Department. Its nice to know I don't have to keep freaking out every night remembering if I locked my car or not. Also, as relieve as I am, it really saddens me that a 12 year old was responsible for this. What kind of life has this child had and what kinda of life is in for now.
Mike February 29, 2012 at 02:09 AM
Thank the Courts and the lawyers for the crimes today. If they would be harder on crime instead of catering to them in jail or prison which is like a resort, free clothes, best meals, never cold in winter, free medical and no real punishment like they did years ago. I lived near Statesville and remembering seeing the prisoners working in the fields and raising livestock and working on the side of the highways. No, today they have nothing to lose. What? You say they lose their freedom. When they don’t have to worry about shelter or food, freedom is not very high on their list.
MidwestGal February 29, 2012 at 11:14 PM
I am so glad you or your family were not physically hurt! I can tell you that too many parents stop parenting after the age of 2 for some reason and this is what happens. Parents need to supervise, teach and control their kids from birth to at least 18. Why society has to put up with this is beyond me! I have parents all over my neighborhood and street who sent their young kids out the door in the morning and don't see them until late...what on earth are they thinking? I guess their job is done. Heck, I also know lots of parents themselves are immature idiots themselves!
MidwestGal February 29, 2012 at 11:17 PM
Why would you ASSume this? I had "nothing" growing up and I would've never done this. I also had no involved parents and practically raised myself, yet I never commited a crime...ever!!!
MidwestGal February 29, 2012 at 11:22 PM
Parents, if you have middle or highschoolers...TALK to them. If you are doing a good job, they will talk about their lives, but also will talk about what the bad kids are up to. The bad kids are not the smartest - they talk and post things on Facebook about what they've done. I know of many pety "crimes" done in my neighborhood, but I PARENT my kid, I can not parent them all. It amazes me that the parents don't know what the kids are doing and where they are. Apple doesn't fall to far I guess.

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