Four Lafayette Teens Suspected in March Fire that Destroyed Landmark Indiana Barn

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) -- A tip from Purdue University police led authorities to four Lafayette teenagers now deemed suspects in a fire that destroyed a roadside barn that students used for decades as a community billboard.

Tippecanoe County prosecutors filed a delinquency petition Thursday against one of the suspects in the March 19 fire. All of the suspects, three of whom are 16 and the fourth who is 15, have been interviewed, but none has been arrested.

Police have not released the names of the suspects or the school they attend. A juvenile judge has scheduled an Aug. 2 initial hearing on the charges.

Maj. Tracy Brown of the Tippecanoe County Sheriffs Department said gasoline and kerosene were used as accelerants to destroy the landmark barn, which sat on county property across the road from Harrison High School on March 19.

Brown said all four teens played a role in setting a less destructive fire on March 12. Investigators suspect two of the teens, a 15-year-old and a 16-year-old, returned on March 19 to finish off the building.

The barn, which was used for years to mark school victories, honor fallen classmates and other significant events, had long been a rallying point for students. It was the second barn built on the site; the first also burned, in the 1970s.

''That fire had a much larger effect than dollar loss. It was an icon of this community for years,'' Brown said.

Purdue police who arrested one of the 16-year-old suspects on May 22 in connection with thefts from a locker room at Mackey Arena obtained information that helped Tippecanoe County police to their break in the barn fire.