Teen sent to rehab for Middletown church fire

Teen sent to rehab for Middletown church fire

A 16-year-old teen has been sent to a rehabilitation program for setting fire to Middletown church and vandalizing a gas station last winter.

The boy pleaded true — the equivalent of guilty in adult court — to vandalism and arson for starting the Jan. 22 fire on Tytus Avenue First Church of God and vandalizing a Middletown gas station before the church fire.

Judge Ronald Craft stayed a sentence for the teen to the Ohio Department of Youth Services, if he successfully completes a program at the Butler County Juvenile Rehabilitation Center, which is a medium-security facility. He was also ordered to pay restitution to the church of $1,000 and $605 for the gas station. The judge said the church congregation has insurance to pay for the rebuilding of the church, minus the $1,000.

Before the sentence was handed down, the teen offered an apology for his actions.

“I want to apologize for what I did. I know it was wrong and I shouldn’t have done it,” the boy said, he added he wanted to go through the rehabilitation program.

Defense attorney Greg Beane said his young client has been doing well while housed at the county juvenile detention center. At the time of the fire, the teen was using street drugs instead of taking his medication for mental health issues.

Craft told the teen that the church pastor has been quoted in the media as saying they have forgiven him.

“That is a difficult thing to do when you have lost your church, don’t you think?” Craft asked the teen. He shook his head and answered “yes, sir.”

“While a building was destroyed temporarily, a family was disrupted — that church family — and it was caused by what you did,” the judge added.

After the hearing, the teen’s grandmother, who this news agency is not naming so that the juvenile will not be identified, said he has the support of his family. She has attended every court hearing.

“He has his family. He has his church family, Full Gospel Outreach,” she said. “We have God and we know what is going to happen. It is in Gods hands. We also know … he has taken full blame. He was off his meds … but he is back on his meds and in JDC. The people at JDC have been awesome, they have stood behind him all the way. We thank everyone.”

A second teen was charged with failure to report a crime and receiving stolen property after he was allegedly found to be in possession of a laptop taken from the church, plus vandalism to the gas station. That teen also entered a true plea to vandalism. The other charges were dismissed.

Last month, that 16-year-old was sentenced by Craft to a 90-day rehabilitation program within the county juvenile detention center.

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