Boys may face more charges for $175,000 in damage
By Scott Bellile
A homeowner has been displaced and contractors are repairing her house following the Oct. 15 arson-burglary that resulted in $175,000 in property damage.
Two 14-year-old boys who were arrested Oct. 15 admitted to the crimes at 150 West 13th St. and await further court proceedings and the possibility of additional charges, Clintonville Police Chief Terry Lorge said.
Each of the boys has so far been charged with one count of theft, arson, burglary and criminal damage to property. They cannot be named because they are juveniles.
Police are also investigating a third 14-year-old boy who may have received property stolen from the house.
A motive for the arson-burglary is not yet determined, but Lorge said he believes it was “just wanton destruction.” Evidence collected at the scene indicates the boys likely used a baseball bat and sledgehammer to smash the homeowner’s belongings before starting a fire in the kitchen, Lorge said.
“They just happened upon [the house] and went inside and it escalated from there: two boys that just went out of hand with destruction and damage for no particular reason,” Lorge said. “As far as we know they don’t even know the homeowner.”
The property damage is more notable in this incident than the number of items stolen, Lorge said. But items taken include personal family objects, jewelry, air soft guns and a canoe.
The homeowner’s canoe was discovered floating in Pigeon Lake by a Clintonville resident a couple evenings later, Lorge said. The fire department helped recover the canoe.
According to Lorge, the boys had spent time outside the 17-acre home days before their crimes. Police believe on prior days the boys swam in the lake and built a campfire there, Lorge said.
Lorge said the boys told him a caretaker saw them on the property on Oct. 14 and sent them away.
The day of the break-in, the boys obtained a brick on the property, threw it through a patio door and shimmied through the broken glass to get inside, Lorge said.
The boys smashed items inside and at some point the boys started the fire in the kitchen area, Lorge said, but he declined to go into specifics about the fire because the investigation is ongoing.
However, Lorge said the fire damaged $175,000 worth of flooring, walls, furnishings and electrical wiring, with $175,000 being a “conservative estimate” at this time.
The homeowner was on vacation at the time. A different house sitter who was not present at the time came by after 5 p.m. and saw broken windows. He heard noises inside the home.
The man called the police. The boys fled and he chased them while on the phone with dispatch, Lorge said.
Officers arrived and chased the boys through properties around 12th Street, Sunset Drive and Fairway Drive before intercepting them.
Lorge speculated the boys may have targeted the house because it was secluded, but further interviews are needed to determine their reasons.
The boys were released to their parents following their arrest and are now out on strict supervision while they await further court dates and charges, Lorge said. Waupaca County Health and Human Services made that decision, he said, and he was unhappy with it given the severity of the crime.
“I’d like the community to know that it wasn’t our call to let them go,” Lorge said.
Chuck Price, director of Waupaca County Health and Human Services, said the decision was made based on Wisconsin Statutes 938.19 and 938.20, which cover protocol for taking a juvenile into custody and releasing a juvenile from custody.
The homeowner told the Tribune-Gazette she is not ready to discuss the incident.
“It’s going to be a long process for the victim,” Lorge said. “The house is uninhabitable. It will be for some time.”