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Edna Police Chief: Juveniles responsible for both fires at former school

By Jessica Priest
May 15, 2014 at 12:15 a.m.


The case of two Edna boys who were detained in connection with a fire at the former George Washington Carver Elementary school has been forwarded to the district attorney's office.

The boys, now ages 14 and 15, were detained the morning of March 17 after a second fire erupted at the former school's gym in the 1100 block of Martin Luther King Drive.

Witnesses said they saw the boys running from the scene. However, Edna Police Chief Clinton Wooldridge did not think they were involved in starting a larger fire at the former school days earlier.

The first fire destroyed the former school's east wing.

Wooldridge said Thursday that the case he forwarded to the Jackson County district attorney shows both boys should be charged with arson for each fire.

The week the fires broke out was spring break, and at least three other children were at the former school with the boys.

Those children have not been detained in connection with the fires.

"I don't have any reason to believe that the others participated in starting the fire," Wooldridge said.

He added that one of the boys charged has been detained for theft before.

The stepmother of one of the boys charged thought the other children played a part, though.

The woman is also the aunt and legal guardian of the second boy charged.

"They didn't go to the school with the intention of setting a fire. It was an accident," she said.

The boys were cold, found some type of accelerant that had been left behind and started one of the fires to warm up, she said. “The fire likely spread because there were flammable materials nearby,” she said.

"They were going to pee on it to put it out. They thought it was out," she said.

Her son is learning disabled, she said.

The building has been dilapidated and a magnet for crime for a long time, she said.

"Now, they're making it out like it was this big, precious building that they glorify. If they really care about the building, why was it not being taken care of?" she asked.

The Advocate does not name a parent if by doing so it identifies their underage children who are charged with a crime.

The Advocate does not name juveniles charged with a crime.

Wooldridge said because the school is privately owned, it is incumbent upon the property owner to secure it, not the city.

The school, built in 1954, was the only black high school in Jackson County until desegregation in 1966.

It was an elementary school until the mid-1990s.

When the boys were detained on March 17, they were taken to the Victoria Regional Juvenile Justice Center. They have since been released to their guardian, Wooldridge said.

The Jackson County district attorney's office declined to comment about the case because it is ongoing.

Story corrected May 17, 2014.

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