Kansas Teens Face 17 Arson Charges

A little bit of juvenile mischief has become big trouble for a pair of 13-year-old Overland Park boys.

And it could prove to be a major financial burden for their parents.

Johnson County prosecutors have charged each boy with 17 felony counts of arson. The boys allegedly started a fire in a trash container last week that spread to an apartment complex carport and destroyed or damaged 16 vehicles in Overland Park.

The boys, whose names were not released because of their ages, were arrested Tuesday night and appeared Wednesday afternoon before Johnson County Magistrate Judge Michael Farley. He ordered both to be held in juvenile detention pending their next court appearances on July 19.

Overland Park police investigators said the total damage caused by the fire was about $150,000. Johnson County juvenile prosecutors said it was among the largest property-damage amounts they had seen.

Investigators said the fire at the Louisburg Square Apartments in the 8800 block of Cedar Street completely destroyed the carport, which collapsed onto the vehicles parked under it. About a dozen vehicles were demolished, and others parked nearby were damaged.

During Wednesdays court hearing, Assistant District Attorney Chris Brown, asking for the boys to remain in detention, said that police were investigating the possibility that they were responsible for other fires set in the same area.

Under Kansas law, victims of malicious and willful property damage at the hands of juveniles can recover up to $5,000 from the parents of the perpetrators. However, if a court or jury finds that the damage is the result of parental neglect, then that $5,000 limit does not apply.

Restitution is always a big priority for us in these cases, said Assistant District Attorney John Fritz. In conjunction with that, we want the juvenile to be held accountable for his actions and make sure he learns a lesson.

Fritz said a handful of juvenile vandalism cases he has prosecuted involved damage in excess of $100,000.

Last year, Blue Valley School District officials filed a lawsuit against the parents of two 13-year-old boys who set a fire that destroyed an elementary school playground. The fire caused $104,000 in damage.

Six youths between the ages of 12 and 17 were prosecuted in 1997 for doing about $100,000 in damage to construction equipment and structures being built in Olathe.

In 1994, two boys aged 11 and 13 were charged with causing about $150,000 in damage after joyriding on bulldozers at an Overland Park construction site.

Perhaps the most infamous vandalism case in recent years in Johnson County was the trashing of a Leawood house during a teen party. Sixteen persons were charged after partygoers did more than $70,000 to the interior of the house while the owners were gone.

After a fire that destroyed or damaged 16 vehicles in Overland Park, two 13-year-olds are charged with felony arson.

Distributed by the Associated Press