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Deputies: Pasco teen who set house on fire texted mom an apology

A 14-year-old girl has been charged with one count of arson and two counts of attempted murder in an overnight fire that occurred at 1:43 a.m. at 9006 Hermitage Lane in Port Richey. Fire crews arrived on scene within six minutes and discovered heavy smoke and flames. (BRENDAN FITTERER  |  Times)
A 14-year-old girl has been charged with one count of arson and two counts of attempted murder in an overnight fire that occurred at 1:43 a.m. at 9006 Hermitage Lane in Port Richey. Fire crews arrived on scene within six minutes and discovered heavy smoke and flames. (BRENDAN FITTERER | Times)
Published Sep. 4, 2014

PORT RICHEY — A 14-year-old seventh-grader is facing two charges of attempted murder after admitting to setting her family's house on fire early Thursday, authorities said.

The girl told Pasco sheriff's investigators she soaked a towel and bedsheet with bleach and rum then set them on fire in the garage of the house on Hermitage Lane where her mother and 9-year-old brother were sleeping, according to an arrest report.

Her reason: She was upset about past bullying and her mother disciplining her at bedtime.

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

The girl's mother told authorities she woke up to smoke inside the house around 1:45 a.m. She got her son out of bed but couldn't find her daughter. After walking her son outside, she went back in to look for the girl.

When Pasco County firefighters arrived, flames were shooting through the roof. At that point, the girl was still unaccounted for. Rescue crews searched the home three times and found no one inside, according to a Pasco County news release.

Pasco sheriff's deputies and Fire Rescue investigators found the teen "several hours later at an undisclosed location, unharmed," the release states.

The girl, a Chasco Middle School student, told investigators she walked to a nearby park bathroom and went to sleep, after packing a bag with clothes, bottled water, cookies, knives, lighters and flashlights.

She also changed out of her loose-fitting pajamas, Sheriff Chris Nocco said, because she realized they could have caught on fire.

"She planned this whole thing out," he said in a news conference Thursday afternoon.

The investigation also revealed that the girl frequents the websites creepypasta.com and souleater.com, which are both associated with Slender Man, the fictional internet character who was said to be the motivation behind two 12-year-old Wisconsin girls stabbing and nearly killing a classmate earlier this year.

Detective Daniel Toner did not classify the house fire as a copycat crime, but said the girl was clearly influenced by violent blogs and videos on the websites.

He said the girl comes from "a good family" and does not initially appear to be someone with such a dark side.

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

Investigators also found a journal in her bag. One written entry stated, "if this keeps up there will be no safety in this house."

It took 17 firefighters from three stations to knock down the flames.

Jim Colucci, 49, who lives next door to the home said he was wakened by another neighbor pounding on his door, yelling to get out of the house because of the fire. He said he got his family and dog out and moved his car away from the flames. Then he watched as the flames rolled out of the garage to within steps of his own home. It caused only minor damage to the wall of his home closest to the other house.

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"If this was something that was done on purpose," Colucci said before charges against the girl were announced, "then we need to do something as a community."