Police in Payette, Idaho, confirmed Wednesday that three of four teenage boys suspected of setting fire to a high school principal’s home last week are in custody, KTVB-TV reported.
Apart from the gravity of the crime — which occurred while Payette High School Principal Mark Heleker, his wife and daughter were in the house — Chief Mark Clark said the suspects told police they drove away from scene while the house was fully engulfed in flames and didn’t call 911.
“We could have easily had a homicide here, and people could have died in this fire,” Clark told KTVB. “It was that serious.”
And the reason for their actions? Clark told the Idaho Statesman that it “appears to be some retaliation against the principal for a couple of them being suspended for the week prior.”
Now one of the teen suspects — none of them has been named — will be charged with first-degree arson while the other three will face felony charges for conspiracy to commit arson.
Clark told KTVB the charges are “pretty serious” because they land all of the teens — three of whom are high schoolers with the fourth in middle school, an eigth-grader — in adult court.
“I guess what I find astonishing is the fact that we have four teenage males that not one of them understood what could have happened by lighting a plastic garbage can on fire while it’s up against somebody’s house,” Clark told the station.
And here’s some more stupidity: After Heleker’s son told him about student comments regarding the fire on social media, the principal told fire officials, who then contacted police. The social media trail was followed, which led to a student Snapchat message that bragged about the fire — complete with an emoji flame icon.
“It’s a shock, no matter what the reason might be, that they would actually carry something this far,” Heleker told the station.
The suspects also are under investigation for as many as 10 car burglaries the same night as the fire, police told the Statesman.
The Heleker’s three cars parked in their driveway were destroyed by the fire — but the paper noted that beforehand they were broken into and items were taken.
“The majority of things that we lost can be replaced. The memories, that’s the worst thing — family videos and photos,” Heleker told the Statesman of the home where his five kids were raised. “We were able to get some photo albums.”
Now the family is living in a hotel and driving loaned vehicles — but they’re looking for a house to rent. Payette High School students created GoFundMe account for the Helekers with a goal of raising $2,000 — and $3,355 was raised as of Thursday afternoon. Students also signed and delivered a huge card to their principal. “They’ve been phenomenal,” Heleker told the paper.
Hekeler, a Green Bay Packers fan since he was 4 years old, lost a large memorabilia collection in the fire — including a Packers lanyard he wore to work after the fire, which was so smoky that it stunk up the office. Then Assistant Principal Jason Dransfield had the idea to contact the NFL team for some new stuff — and the Packers came through.
“I didn’t know that happened,” Heleker told the Statesman. “A box arrived with all kinds of autographed memorabilia.”
(H/T: New York Daily News)