Juveniles responsible for fire that destroyed LDS church building confess
Two teens were placed under arrest Saturday for burglary, theft, and aggravated arson, in connection with the fire that destroyed part of a meetinghouse for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Santaquin.
Santaquin Director of Public Safety, Dennis Howard, said in a press release that the two juveniles have admitted to entering the building through a window before breaking into offices looking for money.
The juveniles, ages 16 and 17, stole $7 from a desk and are being charged with the arson fire that was reported on Thursday, Dec 15 at 4:30 a.m.
Santaquin Police Detective Stan Eggen, who led the investigation, told inSantaquin News that a citizen called in and reported seeing the two teens “running around” in the area on the night of the fire.
Eggen followed up on the tip and visited the home of one of the teens. He was unable to make contact with the boy or his parents at the time, but when the boy’s parents were notified that the police had been by they took matters into their own hands. According to Eggen the parents brought the boy into the Santaquin Police Department without knowing what the boy had done.
An admission of the crimes was obtained and two juveniles were arrested. Eggen said the two confessed to looking for money and for thrills.
“Fortunately they were cooperative,” said Eggen on Saturday.
He feels the parents did the right thing by acting on their suspicions and that the investigation benefited from having a small, tight-knit community.
“Santaquin’s small, people see things and they tell us,” said Eggen. “And we have good parents… that’s key to the whole thing.”
He said the citizens of Santaquin can breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that these teens won’t be doing any more damage.
Santaquin resident Linda Brinkerhoff lives three houses down from the church building and hopes the boys learn from what they did. “Just a fleeting moment of fun,” she said. “Look how destructive it can be.”
Another Santaquin resident, Tracy Brown, echoed those sentiments.
“I hope they learn from it, that they can turn their lives around,” she said. “Hopefully they can have a serious enough punishment that they will know what they’ve done.”
Damage to the church is now estimated at $1.5 to $2 million. Brinkerhoff said she struggled to accept the fact that her old meetinghouse had been destroyed.
“I didn’t sleep well at all that night,” she said. “I kept thinking, ‘Did this really happen?.’”
Her heart goes out to Scott LeBaron and his family, who were forced to move their fundraiser because of the fire. The fundraising event, that was held Thursday night across town, raised money for the LeBaron family; Scott LeBaron was recently diagnosed with an aggressive form of pancreatic cancer.
More information as it becomes available…
UPDATE Dec 31: The two teens are currently being charged as juveniles for aggravated arson.
Pictures from the interior of the building, damaged in arson fire on Thursday night. Pictures used with permission.