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Girl, 14, accused of arson is released, charged as a juvenile

The fire was lit in the garage as the girl’s mother and brother slept Sept. 4 at the Hermitage Lane home, authorities say.
The fire was lit in the garage as the girl’s mother and brother slept Sept. 4 at the Hermitage Lane home, authorities say.
Published Sep. 26, 2014

NEW PORT RICHEY — A 14-year-old girl accused of setting fire to her house while her mother and brother slept inside was released from juvenile detention on Thursday.

The girl was held for 21 days, according to Pasco-Pinellas Assistant State Attorney Mike Halkitis, and now her mother wants her home.

She was charged as a juvenile with two counts of attempted murder and one count of arson. Next, her case will work its way through the juvenile justice system.

According to Department of Juvenile Justice spokeswoman Heather DiGiacomo, unlike punishments in adult court, sentences for juveniles can vary depending on circumstances.

"The court takes into account many different things," she said. "Do they need social services? Do they need counseling?"

Basically, she said, there are no strict guidelines for sentencing juveniles — most of the discretion lies with the judge.

On Sept. 4, while her mother and 9-year-old brother slept, the girl soaked a towel and bedsheet with bleach and rum and lit them on fire in the garage of the Hermitage Lane house, authorities said.

Later, she sent her mother a text saying, "Mom Im so sorry I dont know why I did it." She also asked if anyone was hurt.

The girl's mother, Halkitis said, wants her back home, but the brother's father does not, fearing for his son's safety.

The mother thinks the daughter should get counseling, Halkitis said, and the brother wants the girl home, too.

Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco said previously that the girl had been reading an online book called Soul Eater about killing people. She also wrote in her journal about two 12-year-old Wisconsin girls who stabbed and nearly killed a classmate this year — a crime said to have been inspired by the fictional Internet character Slender Man, who terrorizes children in stories. She had also visited creepypasta.com, where people blog about Slender Man.

"There's a clear direction," Nocco said. "She's involved in reading these things."

Yet outwardly, she didn't betray a dark side.

"You wouldn't look at her and think she was following … an extreme Gothic type of role," Detective Daniel Toner said.

The girl, a Chasco Middle School student, told investigators she packed a bag with clothes, bottled water, cookies, knives, lighters and flashlights and walked to a nearby park restroom, where she slept.

Before lighting the blaze, Nocco said, she changed out of her loose-fitting pajamas when she realized they could catch fire. "She planned this whole thing out," he said.

In the journal marked "Keep Out," one entry stated, "If this keeps up there will be no safety in this house."

The Tampa Bay Times is withholding her name because of her age.