3 teens arrested for fire that burned 3 historic homes
MORROW, Ga. (AP) — Police charged three boys with arson in fires that destroyed three historic homes in an Atlanta suburb over the weekend.
Two 14-year-olds and one 15-year-old were arrested Wednesday at their homes in Clayton County, officials in Morrow announced. All three were taken to a juvenile detention center.
The juveniles are charged with arson, burglary, interference with government property, property damage and trespassing.
The fires burned three houses, including one dating to the 1800s, in an area near Southlake Mall that Morrow spent more than $10 million to develop as a downtown district in 2009. The development closed in late 2010 amid the pressures of the Great Recession and allegations of scandal after it was determined that structures did not meet building codes. Buildings have since been repeatedly vandalized.
The fires were investigated by local officials as well state Insurance and Fire Safety Commissioner John King and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Investigators confirmed the fire was set just after midnight on Saturday morning, beginning in one building and spreading to the other two.
Interim Morrow Police Chief David Snively said investigators met with witnesses and reviewed digital evidence, leading them to the boys.
The city says it will rebuild the structures, despite investigators classifying them as total losses, and is planning a Saturday morning prayer vigil.
“The tremendous grief suffered by our community since Saturday can be somewhat resolved with the knowledge that the suspects in this case have been identified and apprehended,” Mayor John Lampl said in a statement.
Lampl was investigated over the collapse of the development when he was Morrow city manager. He eventually pleaded no contest to falsifying fire reports to say buildings had commercial-grade sprinklers instead of the residential sprinklers that were actually installed. Lampl served six months of probation and paid $12,000 in fines.
Lampl was elected mayor in 2019 and has since spearheaded efforts to redevelop the area after attempts to sell it failed.