“The suspect turned himself in and was taken into custody after he was notified of the charges. He was taken to the Juvenile Detention Center,” Hamilton Fire Chief Mark Mercer said.
Mercer said officials believe the suspect intentionally set the fire that caused neighbors in the Lindenwald neighborhood to wake up to a huge blaze on that Thursday morning.
“A lot of cooperation with the neighbors and with people just stepping up (with information),” Mercer said.
The 17-year-0ld male appeared in Butler County Juvenile Court on Friday morning on charges of arson, aggravated arson and breaking and entering, all felony charges. Magistrate Patricia Wilkerson ordered that he remain in the county juvenile detention center until his next court hearing before Judge Ronald Craft on Aug 20.
According to juvenile court documents, the teen trespassed at 999 Laurel Avenue with the intention of committing a crime and once inside he started a fire that not only caused damage to the unoccupied structure, but damaged to six other houses that were occupied at 4:45 a.m.
Butler County Proscutor Michael Gmoser said his office will consider requesting the teen be tried as an adult.
The teen was targeted as a suspect after a two-week joint investigation the developed compelling evidence, including video, according to Hamilton Police Chief Craig Bucheit.
“We are continuing to work closely with Prosecutor Gmoser on this complex, multi-agency investigation,” Bucheit said.
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The eyesore building has been a problem for firefighters in the past, and it erupted in flames and smoke that could be seen for miles around. It was put out with no injuries, and crews worked to demolish the standing pieces just days later.
The scorched structure was so dangerous the city had to do an emergency demolition, which might hamper any future arson investigations, said Mercer.
Neighbors woke up that morning to the burning building and scrambled to protect themselves and nearby property.
Hamilton’s Executive Director of Public Safety Scott Scrimizzi said the building, which has been vacant for years, has been a hazard. The fire was so hot — 1,100 to 1,200 degrees, fire officials are estimating — because the building contained plastic molds and cardboard.
“Our fire prevention office has been in there … there was a business doing some stuff in there and we shut them down,” Scrimizzi said. “There’s been no activity there for quite some time. It’s always been for us a nuisance because of the lack of maintenance for the building, lack of maintenance for the sprinkler and alarm system, so we get a fair amount of fire alarms there.”
Scrimizzi said the city priced demolishing the building previously, and it would have cost about $500,000.
Staff Writers Denise Callahan and Mike Rutledge contributed to his report
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