Charges have been filed against a teenager in connection with the Cinema Court Fire on June 12 that burned nine homes and an accessory dwelling.
A16-year-old suspect was charged in the Grand County 7th District Juvenile Court with reckless burning and causing a catastrophe, the Grand County Sheriff’s Office said in a press release on Thursday, June 26.
The name and gender of the teen haven’t been released.
Grand County Sheriff Steven White said on Aug. 1 that it will be up to the judge presiding over the case as to whether the teen’s name or any other details are released.
White said three investigators and the patrol staff with the sheriff’s office have worked on the fire investigation.
“We’ll follow everything through the court proceedings,” White said.
State law prohibits the release of any information in cases involving juveniles.
A call to the Grand County 7th District Court was directed to Jeff Fattah, public information officer for the Administrative Office of the Court.
Fattah said the state law regarding juvenile’s also means the gender of the juvenile and the name of the judge presiding over the case cannot be released.
“There is a higher level standard of protection regarding information involving juveniles,” Fattah said.
Fattah said juvenile courts are not criminal courts. “The mission of a juvenile courts is to reform the juvenile and do what’s in the best interest of the juvenile. The goal is not to punish,” Fattah said.
Fattah said the judge in the case would determine the appropriate penalties necessary for reforming the teenager, which may include therapy, supervision, social services, and in some cases, secured-care supervision, up to age 21, if the judge decides the juvenile is a risk to themselves or society.
He said restitution is another option the judge may impose as a penalty in the case.
Damage from the blaze is estimated to be over $1.3 million.
More than 100 residents at Cinema Court Apartments and homes surrounding Pack Creek were evacuated as the wind fueled the fire along the creek.
Investigators with the Moab City Police Department assisted the sheriff’s office with the investigation at the onset of the fire.
“The entire staffs with both agencies were doing all that they could do,” White said. “They work hard because they want to get some closure to this case. It’s devastating what has happened with this case. I hope this will bring some closure to the incident and let the community start rebuilding together.”
Bill and Ivy Partridge are working to rebuild their home on La Sal Avenue. Their home had been on the property near Pack Creek since 1970, and was destroyed in the fire.
“The court’s hands are really tied in what they can do with a juvenile,” Ivy Partridge said. Partridge said she plans to be in court for the juvenile’s case.
On Facebook, many people criticized the court system because they said the juvenile is likely to “get a slap on the wrist.”
“I’m a retired fire captain/arson investigator,” wrote Royce Gholson. “If the 16-year-old is guilty, he should be treated as an adult.”
While some people were quick to agree with Gholson’s comment, many offered other opinions.
“Fines, community service, apology letters can all teach the same lesson … also, you don’t have to get charged with a felony for a court to require you to get mental health counseling,” wrote Cody Skiby of Grand Junction.
Moab artist Tony Savarese weighed in on the discussion.
“He is only 16, I say he needs to do a public apology, face the people he hurt, and apologize. I feel he should do whatever little he can to help those he hurt (to) clean up,” Savarese said. “This is a lesson for the (teenager), take responsibility. Then it is the job of those who have been hurt to forgive the (teenager). And all of us (should) talk to each of our own kids about this and make it a community lesson.”
Regina Franklin has lived at Cinema Court Apartments for four years. Upon hearing of the charges being filed against the 16-year-old, she said she felt sad.
“It’s sad that it’s such a young person who did such a major thing,” Franklin said. “Nobody died, that’s one good thing.”
Charges of reckless burning and causing a catastrophe filed by Grand County Attorney’s Office
“The mission of a juvenile courts is to reform the juvenile and do what’s in the best interest of the juvenile. The goal is not to punish.”