A 9-year-old has been charged with five counts of first-degree murder in connection with a lethal mobile-home fire in April near Goodfield, IL, reported the Peoria Journal Star.
The juvenile also has been charged with two counts of arson and one count of aggravated arson, Woodford County State’s Attorney Greg Minger said.
The identity of the suspect was not revealed, given that person’s age. Minger would not divulge additional details about the suspect, including a possible relationship to the victims.
Minger’s decision to prosecute came six months following the blaze April 6 that killed two adults and three children in a residence at Timberline Mobile Home Park.
The fire at 14 Cypress Court began shortly after 11 p.m. on a Saturday. The trailer was engulfed in flames by the time firefighters arrived a few minutes later.Kathryn Murray, 69; Jason Wall, 34; Rose Alwood, 2; Daemeon Wall, 2; and Ariel Wall, 1, died of smoke inhalation, autopsies revealed.
There were two survivors — Katrina Alwood, who was 27 at the time of the fire, and her juvenile son.
Katrina Alwood and Jason Wall, who were engaged to be married, were parents of Ariel Wall and Daemeon Wall. Rose Alwood was a niece. Murray was Katrina Alwood’s grandmother.
Minger said he went through various authoritative reports about the blaze numerous times before he decided to proceed with prosecution.
“It was a heavy decision,” he said. “It’s a tragedy, but at the end of the day it’s charging a very young person with one of the most serious crimes we have.
“But I just think it needs to be done at this point, for finality.”
He said the aggravated-arson charge suggests the suspect knew others were present when the fire was set.
Earlier, Woodford County Coroner Tim Ruestman ruled the fire was started intentionally.
The fire site is just northeast of Goodfield. The village of about 1,000 residents is located along Interstate 74 between Peoria and Bloomington-Normal.
No arrest warrant is to be issued for the suspect, Minger said. He wasn’t certain about the minimum age threshold for imprisoning a minor.
The suspect is to be appointed an attorney and will be subject to a bench trial, in front of a judge, according to Minger. No jury is to be empaneled.
If convicted, the suspect could be placed on probation for at least five years but not beyond the age of 21, the state’s attorney said. Therapy, counseling and psychological evaluation would be likely.
Incarceration is not an option, Minger suggested.
“Probation, given the age, is about the only outcome that could happen here,” he said.