Teens in church fire get deal, ‘crappy bargain’ for victim

Crime

2 of 5 teens face charges, will be in court on Wednesday

BATTLE GROUND, Wash. (KOIN) — Six months ago Steve Slocum was burned from his Battle Ground home, the former Old Cherry Grove Church, when one of a group of teens got out of a car and threw a flaming object that started the fire.

The old church was a local curiosity because of Slocum’s unusual collection of mannequins. Since the fire he’s lived in 4 different temporary locations. After Thanksgiving he spent a week in the hospital with COVID despite being vaccinated.

About 4 months ago, one of the teens, 16, turned himself in. By the next day all 5 kids had turned themselves in.

Court records show prosecutors were pursuing charges of 1st-degree arson. But recently prosecutors told Slocum only 2 of the 5 teens will face charges: the 17-year-old who threw the mortar and the 17-year-old driver.

The Clark County Fire Marshal’s Office has asked for the public’s help in identifying the suspect and the vehicle that were seen on security footage the night an old church in Battle Ground was set aflame. (CCFMO)

Instead of arson and jail time, a letter from the Clark County prosecutor shows a plea bargain of reckless burning with a punishment of 32 hours of community service, one year of community supervision and restitution.

“It’s a good, good bargain for them. And it’s a crappy bargain for me,” Slocum told KOIN 6 News. “It’s affected my family, myself, the community, you know. And 32 hours of community service to give back to the community, what they’ve taken it’s, it’s nonsense.”

KOIN 6 News reached out to the parents of both teens charged. The mother of the teen driver spoke with KOIN 6 News.

“We feel bad that it happened, but I guess we don’t have anything further to say,” she said.

In a confession letter, the firework thrower wrote: “I still don’t know exactly what the goal/intent was, but it did happen. It was way to (sic) quick of a decision with little thought involved, but it was not the purpose to hurt anyone or cause any large damage.”

The Clark County prosecutor said they were “not able to discuss the pending plea bargain.”

Slocum said the prosecutor told him there wasn’t a strong enough case against the other 3 teens to move forward on charges against them.

On Wednesday in court, Slocum hopes to show pictures of the damage and tell the judge the boys deserve time behind bars.

And Slocum is still waiting on the insurance company to begin the process of rebuilding.

“This sends a terrible message out to the community, you know, and that you can do something as ridiculous as this, either accidentally or intentionally, and you’re gonna get away with it,” he said.

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