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Court to release 11-year-old accused of setting her mother's bed on fire

LARGO — An 11-year-old Clearwater girl accused of setting fire to her mother's bed will be released in a couple of days from Pinellas County's Juvenile Detention Center.

Also, a prosecutor said in a court hearing Wednesday that the girl will be tried in juvenile court, and so will Jack Ault, the girl's 15-year-old co-defendant and purported boyfriend.

The two are facing juvenile charges of attempted murder. Prosecutors had previously been weighing the option of trying the youths as adults, which is fairly common for someone as old as 15, but almost unheard of for someone as young as 11.

Assistant State Attorney Joseph Walker, head of the juvenile division, argued that the girl should stay in detention until trial, and portrayed her as the instigator of the plot against her mother.

"She admitted to law enforcement to pouring fuel, gasoline, outside of her (mother's) bedroom," Walker argued. "She was the one who developed this plan. She got help. She followed through with the plan."

Walker said that she "left her mother in a burning bed. That is a serious event. And she has admitted to it."

Walker stressed that, "she's a danger to herself, and she's a danger to the community."

Defense attorney Roger Futerman argued strongly against that suggestion, and said after the hearing that he was glad the judge ruled against "indefinitely" detaining the 11-year-old girl.

The girl appeared at the hearing, dressed in green scrubs and a white shirt that extended to her knuckles. She did not speak, except to acknowledge that she understood some of the judge's statements in court. The St. Petersburg Times is not naming the girl because of her age.

Both youths are in the Detention Center now. But Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Jack Day said once some medical issues can be worked out, the girl can be sent to live with her aunt Linda Broadhead in Lakeland. He said he hoped that would occur by Friday.

Curtis Krueger can be reached at (727) 893-8232 or ckrueger@sptimes.com.

Court to release 11-year-old accused of setting her mother's bed on fire 01/13/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 13, 2010 10:35pm]
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