ST. PETERSBURG — Police arrested two teens Tuesday in connection with a May 6 arson that destroyed a St. Petersburg family's home. A tip generated from media coverage led to the arrests, police said.
The two boys, both 14, face charges of first-degree arson in connection with the blaze at 3337 28th St. N. They were identified from surveillance images taken about the time of the fire from a nearby 24-hour laundry, police said.
The Tampa Bay Times is not naming the teens because of their ages.
The boys walked into an unlocked laundry room about 5 a.m. May 6 near a carport at the home, police said. Once inside, they ignited some blankets.
They also broke into and ransacked two cars, which belonged to Richard Ryan and his wife, Jessica, who lived at the home for eight years.
"We're just happy they got them," Jessica Ryan said Tuesday. "They could have killed my whole family."
The Ryans and their 6-year-old daughter are staying temporarily with Jessica's grandmother in St. Petersburg. The did not know either of the boys accused of starting the fire, Jessica Ryan said, but her husband had seen one of them in the neighborhood previously.
"These two had no regard for human life," she said. "We want them prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. If they can set a house on fire at 14 with a whole family inside, what are they going to do when they're 18 or 20?"
The family is struggling to come up with money to pay for a new home and replace the items they lost.
The teens also burglarized several cars in the area near the home and set fire to a tree stump in the 3000 block of Lown Street N, police said.
Detectives were also looking into the possibility that the teens are responsible for a fire that destroyed a playground early Saturday morning in the Meadowlawn neighborhood in St. Petersburg, said police spokesman Mike Puetz. One of the teens lives near that playground.
Further criminal charges against the pair are pending, police said.